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4 Takeaways from a Boot Camp Homework Assignment

JC Smiley
Front End Developer with a focus on React (web) and React Native (mobile), Code Connector national team Online Content Manager and a leader for the Memphis chapter, Gardner, and Outdoor Enthusiast
・3 min read

I asked four boot-camp students, who recently finished a homework assignment, the following questions with the intention of getting them to reflect and intentionally learn from the assignment. The assignment involved creating a scrabble game while practicing coding concepts such as objects, arrays, loops, data types, and user inputs. The hope is that others facing a similar situation will find the tips helpful and understand that others share their frustrations.

1. What did they learned from the assignment?

Surprisingly, the majority of the answers were about organizing their solution to a problem. This included figuring out what type of loops to use or which array/string methods are most appropriate to the problem. A great tip is to use pseudo code to guide your coding and to plan each part/data structure of your solution like a jigsaw puzzle. The main takeaway is to spend a lot of time understanding the original problem/instructions before you start coding.

2. If they could start over, what would they do differently

  • The average response was on stepping away from the code when you are stuck and clearing your mind. Banging your head against an issue till your mind becomes “mushy” does not solve the problem. Step away, get rest, clear your head, or get help.
  • A big issue was overthinking the problem and making it more complicated than it has to be.

The takeaway is to break down the problem into smaller tasks and it's easier to focus on the real problem after taking a brief break.

3. What was the hardest concept to understand that was used in this assignment

Objects and to a lesser degree arrays were a big hurdle for everyone. It's understandable that manipulating both at the same time by modifying an object with arrays was a huge mountain to overcome. This type of coding is an accumulation of everything learned before and tests your coding skills. A mantra that is often repeated is each lesson builds on the last and you must learn today's lessons to be prepared for tomorrow's challenges.

4. At what point did they ask for help and was they close to the answer before you asked (hindsight)

  • One person responded they asked for help after they had exhausted all of their resources. I love this answer. This means they look through their reading material, past exercises they coded, google for help, and then finally asked for help from the community.
  • Another student stated that early on in the process they asked for one on one virtually sessions. This points to learning how you learn best which for that person was verbal assistance.
  • A great answer to this question was the assignment generated lots of questions in regards to the instructions. They didn’t know how to start. The student overcame this barrier by rereading the instructions and clarifying with the instructors on what was expected. This allowed them to continue and finish the assignment.
  • An answer that is normal is to wait till you are at your breakdown point before seeking help. While this is normal, it’s a tendency that has to be unlearn. You accomplish nothing by mentally draining yourself and wasting time. You can get a fix to a bug from someone and move on to solving the larger problem. Most importantly, as a student there are some concepts you may not be able to figure out on your own. This is where a mentor, friend, instructor, or your community is the most valuable and useful.

Bonus

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Discussion (5)

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Chris Bongers

Oh wow, really good idea to share stuff like this JC.

Interesting stuff you come back on, like understandable the objects and arrays are quite difficult, but it's interesting to see the "why" actually!

Are you going to do more of these?

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JC Smiley Author

I want to but I'm not sure. This was a quick idea because I read and heard so many students with the same frustrations and doubts about themselves. I stressed that this is normal, you are on the right path, and you are a developer. So I thought maybe if I put it in writing they would feel that they are not alone, that others shared their emotions, and there is a way forward it would help my students. I hope to give this to my students today, wish me luck that I get the desire outcome.

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Chris Bongers

Best of luck JS.

Is this a recurring task? You might want to incorporate this in the next sessions, where you start by stating what struggles the other years had.

Then the new batch can learn/elaborate on their approach, might help in the thinking game upfront.

Or even pick some of the top students and let them modify the original assignment to what they think works better?

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JC Smiley Author

Those are some good suggestions and i will give a try.

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Jon Deavers

Sharing the student feedback is a great idea and encouraging. I'm currently %50 through a 6-month bootcamp and I can't tell you how many times I've had to remind myself (or have a classmate remind me) about the first answer to question #2. Walk away, work on a different project, anything to break the doubt spiral. Thanks for the article!