What is Assessment For?

At this time of year we do a lot of assessment of our students. This week I'm going to be spending the best part of four days in the lab with a bunch of my colleagues, pointing at bits of code written by students and asking "What does this do?". Great fun.

You might think that we do the assessment so that we can give the students grades. True enough, but to me the assessment is more important than that. We also want to have a framework in which we can talk to each student about the programs they have written, and how to make them better. The marking scheme provides lots of hooks we can use to hang discussions about good program design, documentation and testing. 

By the end of each marking session the student will have a number and hopefully they'll have learnt a bit more about software development. Which is kind of the plan.