Towards Giving Timely Formative Feedback and Hints to Novice Programmers

Johan Jeuring*, Hieke Keuning, Samiha Marwan, Dennis Bouvier, Cruz Izu, Natalie Kiesler, Teemu Lehtinen, Dominic Lohr, Andrew Petersen, Sami Sarsa

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
42 Downloads (Pure)


Every year, millions of students learn how to write programs. Learning activities for beginners almost always include programming tasks that require a student to write a program to solve a particular problem. When learning how to solve such a task, many students need feedback on their previous actions, and hints on how to proceed. For tasks such as programming, which are most often solved stepwise, the feedback should take the steps a student has taken towards implementing a solution into account, and the hints should help a student to complete or improve a possibly partial solution.

This paper investigates how previous research on feedback is translated to when and how to give feedback and hints on steps a student takes when solving a programming task. We have selected datasets consisting of sequences of steps students take when working on a programming problem, and annotated these datasets at those places at which experts would intervene, and how they would intervene. We have used these datasets to compare expert feedback and hints to feedback and hints given by learning environments for programming.

Although we have constructed extensive guidelines on when and how to give feedback, we observed plenty of disagreement between experts. We also found several differences between feedback given by experts and learning environments. Experts intervene at specific moments, while in learning environments students have to ask for feedback themselves. The contents of feedback is also different; experts often give (positive) feedback on subgoals, which is not supported by most environments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITiCSE-WGR '22: Proceedings of the 2022 Working Group Reports on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
EditorsBrett Becker, Keith Quille
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)979-8-4007-0010-1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Dec 2022
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 8 Jul 202213 Jul 2022
Conference number: 27


ConferenceAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Abbreviated titleITiCSE
Internet address


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