I would suggest taking a more holistic view of the design space. Rather than
asking which tool is best, you may be better served by seeking to
empirically describe and explain the underlying trade-offs. In what ways do
option1 help, hinder, and undermine learning? In what ways do option2 help,
hinder, and undermine learning? In all likelihood there are answers to all
six questions.

Associate Research Engineer
The Applied Research Laboratory
Penn State University

On Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 7:08 AM, Thomas Green <green...@ntlworld.com> wrote:

> Depending on your aims, you might want to measure transfer to other
> problems: that is,  do participants who used tool A for the sorting task,
> then do better when tackling  a new problem, possibly with a different tool,
> than participants who used tool B?
> You might also want to look at memory and savings: how do the participants
> manage two months later? Occasionally cognitive tasks like yours show no
> effect at the time but produce measurable differences when the same people
> do the same tasks later.
> Pretty hard to create a truly fair test, but things to think about are
> controlling for practice and order effects, which should be easy, and
> controlling for experimenter expectation effects. The hardest thing to
> balance for is sometimes the training period: people using a new tool have
> to learn about it, and that gives them practice effects that the controls
> might not get. Sometimes people create a dummy task for the control
> condition to avoid that problem; or you can compare different versions of
> the tools, with differing features.
> I suggest you try to avoid the simple A vs B design and instead look for a
> design when you can predict a trend: find A, B, C such that your theory says
> A > B > C. The statistical power is much better.
> Don't forget to talk to the people afterwards and get their opinions.
> Sometimes you can find they weren't playing the same game that you were.
> Good luck
> Thomas Green
> On 1 Mar 2011, at 11:20, Stefano Federici wrote:
>  Dear Collegues,
>> I need to plan an evaluation of the improvements brought by the usage of
>> specific software tools when learning the basic concepts of computer
>> programming (sequence, loop, variables, arrays, etc) and the specific topic
>> of sorting algorithms.
>> Which are the best practises for the necessary steps? I guess the steps
>> should be: selection of test group, test of initial skills, partition of the
>> test group in smaller homogenous groups, delivery of learning materials by
>> or by not making use of the tools, test of final skills, comparative
>> analysis.
>> What am I supposed to do to perform a fair test?
>> Any help or reference is welcome.
>> Best Regards
>> Stefano Federici
>> -------------------------------------------------
>> Professor of Computer Science
>> University of Cagliari
>> Dept. of Education and Philosophy
>> Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09123 Cagliari, Italy
>> -------------------------------------------------
>> Tel: +39 349 818 1955 Fax: +39 070 675 7113
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