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I am creating an exam, and I would like to try to incorporate a few Parsons Problems. I am beginning to wonder if this is reasonably possible.

The advantages are (1) it allows struggling students to demonstrate some of their understanding, (2) it is potentially easy to grade.

My question is with regards to that second item. How could one grade a question like this:

What ordering of these lines would create a program that swaps the first number and last number in array fst? Not every line given will necessarily need to be used.

a. fst[fst.length-1] = temp;
b. int temp = fst[0];
c. int temp2 = fst[fst.length];
d. fst[0] = fst[fst.length-1];
e. fst[fst.length] = fst[0];
f. fst[0] = temp2; 

There are a number of possible errors that students could make, and only two completely correct responses.

They could:

  1. Misorder lines
  2. Include distractor lines
  3. Not include needed lines

So, how would one award a score to such a problem? I want to devise something at least somewhat fair, and I am having trouble seeing how to award credit when there are various errors.

(NOTE: I am aware that there are richer, more meaningful ways to deeply assess student understanding. I would love to grade everything by code reviews and write-ups, but the reality of my current work situation would make this absolutely impossible. I need ways to assess, even imperfectly, some amount of student understanding in a time-efficient way. I must pick and choose what I assess deeply. I am aware that any grading rubric will be imperfect. What I wish to do is the best I reasonably can.)

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  • $\begingroup$ (a) looks like a syntax error/typo, and without a proper (a) the problem is not a solvable. $\endgroup$ – Erik Eidt Feb 17 at 17:04
  • $\begingroup$ @ErikEidt Thank you for catching that! $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Feb 17 at 23:56
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    $\begingroup$ I'm worried that anyone with any form of dyslexia will be disadvantaged by such problems. Should I be? $\endgroup$ – Buffy Feb 18 at 20:09
  • $\begingroup$ @Buffy They are meant to decrease cognitive load, and there is certainly research to that effect. It could be that dyslexic individuals would have comparatively less advantage, but I would be quite surprised if the activity is purely harder than "code this method" for anyone. $\endgroup$ – Ben I. Feb 18 at 22:10

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