Facilitating Coding Conversations with Students

Initiating and sustaining productive and meaningful conversations with students, as they are coding, not only offers insight into their learning, but also contributes to a culture of feedback in the classroom. Good questions can open the door for students to articulate their thinking, actively engage in problem solving, and build resilience.

Anytime students are coding or working with a robot, educators and students together must be cognizant of three main ideas:

  • Where am I going? – Do students understand the goal of the challenge or task they are working on?
  • How am I doing? – Can students verbalize or otherwise explain what they are doing with their code and why?
  • Where to next? OR How can I improve? – Are students aware of what the next steps are, or what they are working towards in their coding project? If students have accomplished the task, can they think of ways to improve their code or collaboration?

Classroom conversations between teachers and students are a great way to monitor student progress, while giving students an opportunity to explain their thinking and learning, and make deeper connections to the content and concepts that they are working on. Educators can have a variety of goals when initiating conversation , and being aware of the goal of the conversation can help all involved – whether a whole class, a group of students, or an individual student – engage in a positive and productive process to learn from and with one another.

The following table offers common educator coding goals, and some examples of questions or prompts that can be used to facilitate conversations toward that goal.

Coding Goals

Conversation Prompts

Clarification, or assessing surface level understanding

  • Can you explain what you’re working on?
  • What do you mean by ___?
  • Can you give me an example of ___?
  • How does ___ help?
  • What is your plan for your project? What is the robot going to do first/second/next?
  • Can you explain the goal of the project for me?
  • How are you breaking down the goal or challenge into smaller steps?

Maintaining focus on problem solving

  • What is the problem you are trying to solve
  • What is working well in your code so far?
  • What is a solution we could try? Why do you think that would help?
  • What have you learned from your previous attempts? How can you use that information in your next solution?

Thinking about your code

  • Can you tell me about your code?
  • How did you break down the goal into smaller steps?
  • How will your code help accomplish the task/solve the problem?
  • How did you organize your code so that it matches your plan?
  • Why did you make that choice in your project?
  • Does your robot accomplish the task? How?
  • When you tested your project, did the robot do what you intended? Why or why not?

Iterating with a goal in mind

  • What did you notice when you tested your project? What worked? What didn’t? Why do you think that is?
  • What is one change you can make that will help you reach the goal? What makes you say that?
  • How will you know if your change is effective? What will you look for when you test your project this time?
  • What is one thing you could do to improve your project? Why or how would that make it better?

Improving and growth mindset

  • What do you need to do next? How will you break that down into smaller steps?
  • What is something you learned from your project when it did not work?
  • Is there another way to solve this problem/challenge? What else could you try?
  • What could you change about your design or project to make it more helpful or efficient?