I have seen my share of this 'program gets output' but the programmer has no clue how she/he got there. It's funny how that happens so many times.
This is what I have done to at least handle the issue.
Before assessments, I break down the evaluation to include the following.
- Simply getting the output gets them the bare passing grade.
- Those who can use meaningful names for their variables, function calls get extra.
- Those that can back up their loops, method calls and variable declarations with expansive ( 2 to 3 lines at least) comments get extra points.
- In addition to that, those that can write psuedocode above the program code (perhaps in a big block of comments) get some more.
Obviously, this makes me their least favourite faculty in terms of evaluation and gets me a lot of complaints but I stick with it.
Update : Please note that, during evaluation, I don't expect all of them to be done. Say, a student is already using meaningful names everywhere, I would not mark her/him down for not writing comments.