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Staudacher, Korbinian; Mader, Sebastian and Bry, Francois (2019): Automated Scaffolding and Feedback for Proof Construction: A Case Study. In: Proceedings of the 18Th European Conference on E-Learning (Ecel 2019): pp. 542-550

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Abstract

Beginners are often unaccustomed to the abstract and formal thinking required in tertiary computer science education. This can be alleviated through close support provided by an experienced person, like a teacher. Nowadays, such support is hardly possible because, in computer science, instructors face classes of a few ten to a few hundred students. This article shows how scaffolding and feedback needed by computer science beginners can be provided by software. The particularly difficult case of building logical proofs is considered so as to demonstrate the effectiveness of the approach. The approach to computer-provided scaffolding and feedback presented in this article is based on specifically designed proof editors that relieve learners from some choices and tasks - scaffolding - and provide immediate feedback on those tasks left to the learners. Building logical proofs is especially challenging - not only for beginners - because it includes various challenges: Understanding definitions, building a syntactically correct proof, and correctly applying complex proof building rules. This article introduces two specialized editors that support students in learning the proof methods Resolution and Natural Deduction. The editors make it possible for learners to focus on the correct order of rule application - the most challenging part of proof building -, by relieving them of the other aspects of proof building, and providing immediate feedback on the correctness of proof construction tasks performed by the learners. The contributions of this article are twofold: First, the conception and implementation of two original graphical proof editors, and second, a report on an evaluation of the editors and the feedback and scaffolding they provide pointing to the educational approach's effectiveness.

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