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Problem solving tasks

Multiple-choice quizzes and fill-in-the-blank exercises have their place. They're good for activating prior knowledge, and testing memorized facts.

However, students need hands-on tasks, if they're going to learn problem solving. You can't learn to analyze data, without trying to analyze data yourself. Reading about data analysis, or taking a multiple-choice quiz on the abstract steps of data analysis, simply isn't enough.

We have a few issues to think about when designing problem solving tasks. First, there's the "step size" in a problem solving sequence. More exercises (with slight increases in complexity) is better than fewer exercises (with big increases in complexity).

The more exercises, the higher the grading load. Still, if we want more students to succeed, we should use the many-exercises approach.

Another issue is that students need formative feedback, if they're to improve.

Third issue: students need a reason to read feedback, and use it to improve. Allowing resubmission achieves that, at the cost of increasing the grading load.

So, ideally, we should have a sequence of many low-stakes exercises. Students get formative feedback on each one. If their work isn't perfect, or nearly so, they don't get credit. However, they get to improve their work, and resubmit.

Oh, one last thing. The feedback should be personal. Each student gets individual feedback on just their own submission. For every exercise.



Oh, come on, now! That's just silly. I'd be doing nothing but grading!

True, unless there was a workflow that (1) made giving formative feedback very fast, and (2) let low-cost hourly workers give good feedback. Skilling does exactly this.

In fact, it's worth using Skilling just for the feedback system. Sure, it does other cool things, but the feedback system is critical to increasing the number of students who succeed in skills courses.

There's a lot more we could talk about, like the difference between whole- and part-task exercises. However, to really see what Skilling can offer, learn about the feedback system.