Mastery learning in introductory programming: plan for a new course


  • Guttorm Sindre NTNU
  • Gabrielle Hansen NTNU
  • Guri Sivertsen Korpås NTNU
  • Aksel Kirknes NTNU
  • Johanna Xiaoli Skøien NTNU
  • Juni L. Magnussen NTNU


In the autumn semester of 2023 a new programming course will be given to students at the LUR program (STEM teacher education) at NTNU. The course will use mastery learning. Instead of an end-of-course exam, there will be a series of tests, each student able to choose their individual pace. In addition, each student will perform an individual programming project, making a Python program intended for use in STEM subjects in high school. The better grade a student is aiming for, the more tests must be passed, and the more iteration to add features and new programming concepts to the project. The article presents the motivation for trying out such a course design, going through some literature on mastery learning, specifically experiences from other learning institutions about mastery learning in intro programming, both in Norway and abroad. Thereafter, we present the planned course design, and how students from the program have been involved in the development process. Finally, we discuss potential risks and challenges that will have to be handled, what follow-up research is planned along the way, and how experiences from trying out this new course design might impact also other courses.


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