Could They Answer This?

It’s funny how one thing can stick in your mind. 

Today at lunch, there was an industry panel discussing a number of questions about student-industry transition.  Many of the topics could have been student-work anywhere.  It was going along well until the topic turned to the job interview.

On the panel was Larry Israelite and instead of immediately answering the question, he posed questions of his own to the audience.

How many of you teach students to collaborate with others?

Hands went up everywhere.

How many of you teach students to work in groups?

Hands went up everywhere.

It could also have included – How many of you teach pair programming?

I figured this was just going to be a big softball and lobbed up to the group.

Then, the moment…

When I’m interviewing students, I’m not interviewing the group.  I’m interviewing the student.

How would your student answer the question when I ask “What can YOU do?”

Now, in fairness to educators, we know how to assess student participating, involvement, and contributions when they’re working in groups.

But, does the individual student know?  Could they answer the question and clearly explain what it is that THEY can do?

My immediate thought was that I would certainly hope so.  But, it got me thinking…  Could they actually answer the question?

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: Follow me on Twitter: I'm bookmarking things at:

5 thoughts on “Could They Answer This?”

  1. Doug, this was an issue that I never really thought about until reading COMPREHENSION AND COLLABORATION: INQUIRY CIRCLES IN ACTION. There are some fantastic ideas in here on how to question individual students to see that they understand and have thought about the content. I think that many of these ideas could be used in a programming situation. In fact, I tended to use some of the questioning techniques when talking to my students during the process of programming. This again comes down to the need to assess during the process and not just evaluate at the end. If we just evaluate the final product, then we don’t know which student contributed what and what each student understands. I’m curious to hear what others do to ensure that “collaboration” doesn’t just result in one or two people doing all of the work and all of the learning.



  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Aviva. It seems to me that we have the “teacher” end pretty much thought through and have our ways of ensuring that any assessment is done fairly. The “student” piece was what really struck me. Are students able to clearly identify what their skills are when questioned in an interview? They know what the group did but are they clearly available to separate the “me” from the “we”.


  3. But wouldn’t this come up as part of our discussion with individual students and student groups? Just like we have them talk about what they’ve learned and what they’re doing. If not, how could our conversation points change to ensure that this does happen?



  4. Great conversation, and blog post. Aviva, I’m very much with you that the “conversation” part of the assessment triangle is hugely important. It’s not just teacher observation, it’s that actually talking about each student’s learning with them, while they’re in the middle of it. I also think we have to work to teach interviewers how to ask good questions. 😉


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