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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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