[xquery-talk] Izzit Bcos I is functional?

Ihe Onwuka ihe.onwuka at gmail.com
Fri Jun 19 03:59:39 PDT 2015


Can you relate, or is it different in the Netherlands. I can't remember why
I got it from but it is very well written.

I'm a university lecturer in Computer Science, I teach a second year module
in programming. I've spent my Christmas "holidays" marking the end-of-term
test I set for my students. Every year it's the same - no more than a third
of them are showing the sort of ability I would want in anyone doing a
coding job. One-third of them are so poor at programming that one would be
surprised to hear they had spent more than a couple of weeks supposedly
learning about it, never mind half-way through a degree in it. This is the
hidden issue, which academics moan about in private but don't like to say
in public. It's not just me or where I teach, the same occurs everywhere.
If you really test them on decent programming skills, you get a huge
failure rate. In this country it's thought bad to fail students, so mostly
we find ways of getting them through even though they don't really have the
skills. My advice to any employer looking for real programming skills is
don't just look at the degree class, look at the module grades, and don't
take on anyone whose 2i or 1st has been gained by good grades in other
modules balancing weak grade in the programming modules. But even with the
programming modules, check out how the assessment was done. One issue does
seem to be natural ability - some have got it, some haven't. We've not
found a good way to work out who has it when we recruit the students, and
league table pressure now means we are forced to recruit the students with
the highest A-level grades regardless of anything else, and A-level grades
certainly are NOT a good test of natural ability for coding. There's some
correlation with the grade in A-level Maths, that's about it. However,
these days when all the pressure is to recruit high grade students because
that pushes us up the league tables, central admin won't let us take on
applicants with reasonable A-level maths and outside interests which
suggest genuine coding ability rather than applicants with just higher
grades in other subjects. But another issue is lack of student discipline.

Too many of them just don't realise how to learn this stuff properly, you
have to practice, practice, practice. Too many of them are stuck in the
mentality that to do well all that is needed is to "revise" in the week
before the exam. Unfortunately, we have a culture which puts forward the
impression that tests and exams are "memory dumps". I keep telling my
students it isn't like that for our subject, they don't believe me. I see
this in their test and exam answers, where you so often see something which
completely misses the point written down because it's something they've
memorised and they've dumped it on paper in response to a trigger word in
the question. Note also, if the assessment is more through coursework than
exams, a large proportion of what is submitted will not be the students'
own work. It may not be actual copying, but it is often "We discussed it
together" i.e. one of them did the work, and the others made cosmetic
fiddles and claimed they were just helped by the discussion. Or some friend
or relative did it for them, etc. So I would say, if assessment is not
largely exam based, don't take them on even if they do have high grades in
the programming modules. This is also why I have no faith in "MOOC"s, as
most of the seem to have assessment based on memorisation and multiple
choice rather than deep analysis of real skills. Sure, you can automate
marking of really simple introductory programming exercises, but anything
beyond 1st year coding, you can't, because automated marking won't test
subtle issues such as good style or solving a problem in a particular way.
I set tests and exams with an emphasis on writing actual code and showing
deep understanding, but it doesn't make me popular, and it doesn't lead to
a high pass rate. Many others succumb to the pressure, and set tests and
exams with questions which are multiple-choice and centre on memorising
definitions rather than solving coding problems. That makes it MUCH easier
to mark, and you get a higher pass rate as well. If I had done that I
wouldn't have my wife nagging me "It's Christmas - why are you doing
work?", and I wouldn't have my boss nagging me "Why does your module have
such a high failure rate?" and I wouldn't have my student nagging me "Why
are you so tough on us?".

On Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 12:59 AM, Maurice van Keulen <m.vankeulen at utwente.nl
> wrote:

>  Just to confirm, at the University of Twente (Netherlands), we teach
> XML/XQuery alongside Relational/SQL to the first year bachelor students
> computer science. This is their 'foundations of databases' course. One of
> the main reasons is to teach them that there is structured, semi-structured
> and unstructured data which are best processed with different technologies.
> Regarding XQuery, my end goal is that they can develop their first web
> services with RESTXQ (using BaseX), just to make them realize how much more
> productive they can become when embracing such technology.
> Regards,
> Maurice van Keulen
> P.S. @Daniela,Ihe: loving your discussions!!!
> On 17/06/15 00:21, daniela florescu wrote:
>  I'm not sure about that. I know Harvard does but that is part of a web
> programming course.
> http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/electrical-engineering-and-computer-science/6-830-database-systems-fall-2010/readings/
> http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/civil-and-environmental-engineering/1-264j-database-internet-and-systems-integration-technologies-fall-2013/lecture-notes-exercises/
>  Look inside the slides of the database classes… you’ll see XQuery almost
> everywhere (at the end of the class…).
>  Especially that Stanford does it, and most database professors copy the
> slides from Stanford.
> https://lagunita.stanford.edu/courses/DB/XPath/SelfPaced/courseware/ch-querying_xml/seq-vid-xquery_introduction/
>  (not that the Stanford professors understand much from XML and XQuery …
> but that’s a whole new discussion…)
>  MIT doesn't, neither does either of the universities I went to.
>  That’s because Stonebreaker is there, and he wouldn’t be caught dead
> teaching XML. I’ll see if I can make him change his mind
> about JSON…. :-)
>  The fact that sir TBL is in MIT too doesn’t help at all either, given
> the fact that he was “convinced” by a bunch of good willing people that XML
> is
> evil. (and the semantic web will cure the hunger of the world and the
> cancer for sure…)
>  What are they. Alot of the ones I have read aren't true and seem to be
> based on a lack of knowledge about XML
>  I think I KNOW something about XML — not that I enjoyed learning it, but
> I HAD to :-)
>  Want a quick list ? processing instructions, weirdo parsing rules that
> are inherited from the 1950’s SGML, weirdo design
> of namespaces, XML Schema anyone !? nillable anyone !? Some early design
> of Xpath 1.0 (no reserved keywords, semantics of =)
>  I’ll stop here.
>  Only those and that would stop me (as a database person) right there to
> use XML as a format for data.
>  Y'see I reckon that if JSON was deployed in many of the domains where
> XML is, it too would be hated.
>  Yes, but less.
>  People would STILL have to face the fact that they cannot process JSON
> with their beloved SQL…. but at least they wouldn’t
> add insult to injury by adding the weird things I listed above.
>  The bitter pill would be somehow easier to swallow.
>  The database people accept with open arms JSOn right now because they
> don’t REALLY understand what JSON is.
>  Most of them still look at JSON as a nicer syntax then CSV…..they think
> it’s flat, or a “little” nested.
>  The shock will hit them later on :-))))
>  Best regards
> Dana
> _______________________________________________talk at x-query.comhttp://x-query.com/mailman/listinfo/talk
> --
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Dr.ir. M. van Keulen - Associate Professor Data Management Technology
> Univ of Twente, Dept of EEMCS, POBox 217, 7500 AE Enschede, Netherlands
> Email: m.vankeulen at utwente.nl, Phone: +31534893688, Fax: +31534892927
> Room: Zilverling 2013, WWW: http://www.cs.utwente.nl/~keulen
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