Parsons Problems

Feb 14, 2019 3:16:23 PM

parsonsIconCodio introduces a new type of assessment: Parson’s Problems

What are Parson’s Problems?

Parson’s Problems are great formative assessments that ask students to arrange blocks of scrambled code - allowing them to focus on the purpose and flow of the code (often including a new pattern or feature) while not worrying about syntax.


When students think they have completed the task correctly, Parson's problems offer feedback - highlighting any problematic lines. Students can then try to fix their code and re-submit:



Why Parson’s Problems?

While Codio offers auto-grading for more open-ended coding exercises, writing code is a time-consuming task for students. So in addition to asking students to predict the output of existing code, Parson’s problems offer another way to expose students to code without requiring large amounts of time. In fact, research shows that while Parson’s problems take “significantly less time  than fixing code with errors or than writing the equivalent code... there was no statistically significant difference in the learning performance, or in student retention of the knowledge one week later.” [1]

Additionally, as students make their way through units and semesters, the amount of work they do decreases. However, Parson’s problems have been shown to be one of the most engaged with features on interactive platforms despite the drop off in student completion of tasks. [2]

Creating Parson’s Puzzles on Codio

Parson’s Problems are available now on Codio as Parsons Puzzles and creating them is easy:

  • Go to the drop down for assessments like you would for any other assessment type and select Parson’s Puzzle

  • Name the puzzle and paste in the correct code

  • Add distractor blocks (if you want) and click save

To learn more about how to add Parson’s puzzles to your courses on Codio, see our full documentation:  Parsons puzzles


[1] Ericson, B. J., Margulieux, L. E., & Rick, J. (2017, November). Solving parsons problems versus fixing and writing code. In Proceedings of the 17th Koli Calling Conference on Computing Education Research (pp. 20-29). ACM.

[2] Ericson, B. J., Guzdial, M. J., & Morrison, B. B. (2015, July). Analysis of interactive features designed to enhance learning in an ebook. In Proceedings of the eleventh annual International Conference on International Computing Education Research (pp. 169-178). ACM.

Elise Deitrick

Written by Elise Deitrick

Director of Curricula and Education Programs Elise believes in making quality educational experiences available to everyone. With a BS in Computer Science and a PhD in STEM Education, she has spent the last several years teaching robotics, computer science and engineering. Elise now uses that experience and expertise to shape Codio's content.