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Durham University

Computer Science


Publication details for Dr Steven Bradley

Bradley, Steven (2020), Creative Assessment in Programming, Durham, England, ACM, 1.

Author(s) from Durham


Negative stereotypes persist in computing, and align poorly with research into the motivations of female students. In particular, female students are more inclined to want to work creatively and have a positive impact through their work. However programming assignments are often tightly constrained and rather pointless in themselves so are doubly unattractive. Alongside this, concerns are often raised about plagiarism in programming assignments, particularly when the assessment process is automated. We attempt to address both of these issues by designing more creative programming assignments, allowing students to engage in work aligned with whatever their interests are. By providing a more divergent assessment, automated plagiarism detectors are much more effective because the likelihood of false positives is much lower than in more constrained, convergent assessments. We also show how to combine this with partial automation of assessment. To examine this approach we compare the results of two subsequent years of delivery of the same second-year undergraduate programming module, and find that, using more creative assessments, female students average scores were substantially increased so that they outperform male students. While the results are not quite statistically significant (according to 2-way ANOVA), they demonstrate potential that could be verified with a larger sample.