Assignment Technique

I have a habit of diving head first into assignments trying to amaze and astound people by implementing very advanced techniques or the like into my work.

I’ve had several lengthy discussions with many of my lecturers about my attitude toward my work. Nearly all of them keep telling me to, for lack of a better phrase, take it a little less seriously. Generally they tell me to go for easy marks first, then go for the harder stuff. I generally dislike this approach to education as I don’t feel it really encourages students to push themselves. It’s hard to really push yourself when you already know that you’re going to pass. Also, bare pass marks are usually at a very low standard. I want top marks, all the time in everything.

This semester I’m amalgamating all the advice that I’ve had from my lectures and combining them with my usual approach. So far its serving me well.

For example, I have an assignment for concurrency. I’ve attempted this assignment several times and keep coming up against the exact same problem. Basically I have a resource shortage and I just can’t solve it. I’m reluctant to ask my tutor for any more assistance that he’s already provided me. It’s a huge class and I’m so far ahead of everyone else that it’s not really fair to be taking so much time from those who might be struggling.

I pushed onward and found come up with an implementation that solves the problem except for a very minor, but obvious, cosmetic problem. I’ve spent weeks on this assignment and it’s really starting to get to me.

So I’m taking a break, sort of. The assignment is done bar this single problem and I’ve got a lot of other, more difficult work to attend to. So rather than spending the next 4 weeks pulling out my hair trying to figure out I’ve applied my new approach, all be it, in reverse. I took a look at the marking scheme and have implemented each of the, extra marks, items. These are things like pretty graphics and other things that are might be slightly beyond the scope of the module. So counting up the marks I’m easily into the high 90% despite this little problem. The extra marks gained will more than make up for the marks lost. Now, if I don’t manage to get back to this assignment before the hand I’ll still be looking at an A. My assignment may not be perfect but I’m still getting top marks.

I realize that this might be considered contrary to things I’ve said in the past. But those were intended to be general student advice. This is specific to me.

Weakness

This year I’ve tried to focus more heavily on managing my time. As soon as the assignments were given I allocated time for them. I made sure that I approached all of my school work as a whole instead of the more serialised approach that I took last year. While this has equated to none of my assignments being completed, they are each very nearly finished, and all of them are above passing point according to their associated marking schemes. I’m pretty proud of this achievement, and will be sticking closely to my time management approach, its served me well.

I’ve identified a couple of weaknesses that I’m going to work on this semester that that’s mostly around my programming approach. I’m very much a write now and ask questions, or not, later type of programmer. On my final year project it was mentioned, and this year it’s already been mentioned a couple of times and that’s testing. I’m lousy at testing, in that, while I test as I go, I don’t keep any record of it. So one could say that I don’t do any testing at all.

I went to an interview for a placement and was given an exercise to carry out in a TDD situation. I failed this catastrophically. I should know about unit testing, and TDD as I’ve had a fair amount of exposure to it but I just never use it.
So this semester I’m going to approach all of my programming assignments using TDD. I’ve seen the quality of the code it promotes first hand and I want to bring myself up to that level.

Another weakness that I tackled early on and feel is worth mentioning is time wasting. This was actually a bigger problem than I realised. There was the phrase I heard that went something like “A lot of time is wasted beating your head against a wall hoping it will turn into a door.” I thought about this and realised that I spent a lot of time not understanding stuff. The next time your in a ‘beat your head against the wall’ situation think about how much time you spend with your head on the desk, or in your hands, or wherever. For me it was a lot. I’ve sat for hours thinking and fretting about how I don’t understand it, or don’t get it, or whatever. As soon as I get past that hurdle, the work would get done. But often by that time it was bordering on too late. So initially I focussed on how quickest to get over that hurdle, which is ridiculous now that I’m looking back at it, it’s kind of like planning to fail, or trying to take account of your own stupidity. So I determined that there was no need for that hurdle to be there in the first place. I know I don’t understand the subject, which is why I’m sitting there trying to learn it. So now when I approach work I find myself struggling to grasp the concept or whatever I push my brain into different mode, usually I just push on, I try things, test things, read things if it comes to that until the concept become more clear.
I tell you, I’m getting twice the amount done as before.

Changes

The original intention of this blog was to provide information on dyslexia in a very broad sense.

Due to lack of time and motivation this site went nowhere pretty quickly. So, I’m repurposing it to a somewhat more egocentric theme. It’s now going to serve as the main outlet for my own personal experience in higher education. In the hope that this blog will serve as more inspirational rather than educational.

As part of my final year project I’m going to be posting elements of my progress and other things on the site.

Also my thoughts solutions and ideas will hopefully find there way here too.