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Parson’s Problems

Pam Jones,
Educational Content Developer
United Kingdom

Assessing a student’s understanding of programming can be challenging as the majority of learning is a hands-on application that requires observations and evidence gathering. 

Parson’s Problems can offer a solution to assessing a student’s understanding of programming concepts and creating programs during this engaging activity. 

What is a Parson’s Problem?

A Parson’s Problem is about rearranging the given lines of code into the correct sequence to create the program to solve the given problem.

How can a Parson’s Problem be applied to KUBO?

A KUBO Parson’s Problem is an activity that is set up with all the TagTiles® that are required to solve the given problem. The students are then required to use the TagTiles and place them in the correct sequence to solve the given problem.

Example activity:

Can you create the program to get KUBO from the start position on C1 to H2?
 

This activity above uses KUBO Play which is the interactive simulator for KUBO. The TagTiles can be moved to create a Parson’s Problem on the table as above.

Within this Parson’s Problem, the students have the TagTiles laid out to use and the focus is on the sequence the program needs to be in to complete the activity set.

This is an opportunity to observe the students’ ability to decompose a problem into the individual instructions and sequence of instructions required. The main advantage of using a Parson’s problem is that any mistakes made by students will highlight misconceptions and misunderstandings to help inform planning and delivery.

Assessment of different abilities

Adding differentiation to the Parson’s Problem can allow students to showcase their understanding of computing concepts. By offering two possible solutions to the given problem and allowing students to select the program, their want to create will show their understanding of using repetition within a program.

Storytelling and KUBO

The concept of a Parson’s problem allows students to decompose a problem and find the solution. This can be done using storytelling as KUBO can be given a story to engage students to find the solution. 

For example, the task given was to program KUBO to move from C1 to H2.

KUBO has been a really good robot and has been allowed to go to the shop with some pocket money to buy some sweets. KUBO can get a little lost sometimes and likes to plan the route., The TagTiles required have been given but KUBO needs to put the instructions in the correct sequence. Can you help KUBO put the TagTiles in the correct sequence?

By using a simple storyline around the problem, students will become engaged in the story. They can follow this with an activity to finish the story with the correct sequence and how KUBO gets to the shop to buy the sweets.

Next steps

Students can also create Parson’s Problems for each other, further developing their understanding by allowing them to show their ability to break a problem down into individual steps to give to another student.

Remember

  • Parson’s Problems should only have one possible solution. 
  • Differentiation can be available through different activities.
  • Consider the position of Parson’s Problems within a unit of work and how the findings can inform planning and delivery.
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