Designing Standards-aligned Formative Assessments to Explore Middle School Students’ Understanding of Algorithms

'Algorithms’ is a core CS concept included in the K-12 CS learning standards, yet student challenges with understanding and using algorithms are still not well documented. This paper describes an approach to decompose the broad middle-school ‘algorithms’ standard into finer grained learning targets, develop formative assessment tasks aligned with the fine-grained learning targets, and use the tasks to explore student understanding of and challenges with the various concepts underlying the standard. We describe a number of student challenges revealed by our analysis of student responses to a set of standards-aligned formative assessment tasks. Our study underscores the importance of carefully designing formative assessment tasks to capture students’ understanding of, and challenges with grade-appropriate algorithm concepts.

Basu, S., Rutstein, D., Rachmatullah, A., Tate, C., Yang, H., & Ortiz, C. (2023, April) Designing standards-aligned formative assessments to explore middle school students’ understanding of algorithms. Paper presented at the annual conference of American Educational Research Association (AERA), Chicago.