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What is the best way of tagging questions to identify the combination of experience level and age range which a question is focused on? Ideally in a way which will be internationally relevant?

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  • $\begingroup$ Perhaps a concept like 'situation' might be a better fit than age range, as a key to the type of learning institution. For example, I teach a vocational program: adults making a career change. It is not College, it is not High School, it is not 20 year-olds, it is not anything, except "Adults - Not Otherwise Specified". Yet, that category is vital to my questions. I won't get the answers I need without that context. $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 17 '17 at 16:33
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I think age is not ultimately relevant (it's mental age that counts). However, we could focus on experience level and target groups:

Both dimensions are relevant to teaching and therefore part of the subject of the question. For example, in introductory courses there are different problems than in advanced ones, like installation issues, more plagiarism, having to teach syntax rather than concepts, etc. The grade level more or less describes mental age and is relevant because different groups need different pedagogic approaches.

These tags are different from so-called meta tags like "beginner", because they give information about the situation, not the background of the asker.

Note: we currently have , comparable to . Perhaps this is just me being pedantic, but I feel it should be , with a hyphen.

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    $\begingroup$ I agree so much with the hyphen! Truly, this is a site of teachers :) Your tag designations are US-centric, though, so real age designations might be more appropriate. Teaching introductory programming to pre-k kids is different than teaching to adults. $\endgroup$ – Ben I. May 23 '17 at 16:17
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    $\begingroup$ @Choirbean I don't think they are US-centric; I myself am from western Europe. Most countries know a distinction between primary, secondary / high school and the university levels. $\endgroup$ – Keelan May 23 '17 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ I'd prefer the ages listed - then you don't worry about confusion if someone doesn't have the concept of primary-school or if they fold two age groups into something else. Typical programming; add a layer of abstraction! $\endgroup$ – AlG Jun 22 '17 at 20:22
  • $\begingroup$ @AIG you are losing a layer, not adding one. I explained in my answer why I think age ranges are inconvenient, but you are entitled to your opinion of course. $\endgroup$ – Keelan Jun 23 '17 at 3:54
  • $\begingroup$ What about introductory topics for adult students (not in or related to college)? I don't know. adult-education! So, this is my main teaching area, and if you want the two tiers listed above, then there must be a "vocational" or some other tag for Target Group. Or else I can't ask any questions and expect to get useful replies (which happens). $\endgroup$ – user737 Jul 17 '17 at 16:13
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I have to vote against our CM on this, partially at least, though I don't relish doing so.

Tags are meant to describe the subject of the question

The whole premise of this site is education and the level of that education is the subject of the questions. If not explicitly, then inherently. For that we need tags to differentiate the level of the materials. On SO a user might be well versed in one language, yet be helpless in another. The tags for languages helps them sort that out. Here an instructor may be excellent with courses aimed at computer-literate students adding another language or skill to their skill set, but be helpless with a neophyte. Tags will help us sort that out.

Conversely, I don't think we need tags that sort by age ranges. Possibly allowing for the extremes at both ends: per-adolescent and elderly, which have their own set of unique challenges. On this site the age of the student means much less than the level of their computer literacy, and their level of ability, or education, in the subject area.

Just to pipe up on other tags. I see that programming language tags are growing roots here as well. I can't say if that's good or bad, yet I'm inclined to think that they are not appropriate for here. The language used might be part of the question's details, but the issue raised is most likely relevant to education using any one of several other languages, or maybe even without a language at all. The concept of array is the same in C, Perl, Fortran, and BASIC. Some allow multi-dimensional arrays, others do not, but how to use them, logically, remains the same regardless of the syntax.

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  • $\begingroup$ typo in the first line, I assume... $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane May 30 '17 at 10:02
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, fixed. Don't like the character limit for edits :( $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver May 30 '17 at 10:10
  • $\begingroup$ But the concept of an array is not the same in Python on in Scheme. Some features really are language-specific. Also, some lessons are really about syntax (such as working through c's rather unfortunate pointer-syntax.) $\endgroup$ – Ben I. May 31 '17 at 0:24
  • $\begingroup$ Somehow it just seems like it's too specific here, using language tags. The syntax of the language shouldn't be the subject of a question here, rather it should be the presentation of the subject. Not familiar with Python or Scheme, though I've used many others, so can't address array concept in either. In every other language I've used the concept, if not the name, has been the same - a list of data points. APL calls it a vector, Perl can consider it an Array or a List, depending on context, some languages support multiple dimensions, others don't. Across the board, the concept is the same. $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver May 31 '17 at 0:36
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Some thoughts a little farther along...

The target group (, etc) tags are, I think, working out very well and are useful.

The experience level tags...well...not so much. is clearly over used and is being phased out, and I'm not sure is a great tag either. It's been discussed in chat that we should perhaps create tags for common courses, like , , , and so on, which I think is a great idea, and conveys the idea of experience level without the mass application. A couple of these have already been created.

However, there's a problem with the above. and aren't well defined - as this paper (thanks Gypsy Spellweaver!) puts it:

Thirty-one years ago, the ACM Computing Curricula used the terms "CS1" and "CS2" to designate the first two two courses in the introductory sequence of a computer science major. While computer science education has greatly changed since that time, we still refer to introduction to programming courses as CS1 and basic data structures courses as CS2 [...] while there is wide agreement on the connotation of CS1 and CS2, there is little agreement as to the denotation of these terms

So even these tags may not always work out. These tags are very important, and I don't think they're meta tags, and they'd be very helpful to users of this site - but we have to think carefully about how we want to structure the experience level tag system.

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    $\begingroup$ Figuring out what is, is not, useful as a tag may end up working itself out as the tags get used, and/or misused. $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver Jun 23 '17 at 0:51
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I made a question that focus on the audience age here and then I created the tag elderly.

I think that this type of tag a good approach to help the definition of age range. Combining it with the tags suggested in the @Keelan answer, we will have a good audience identification.

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    $\begingroup$ Maybe 'mature-learner' or something similar would be better. Elderly implies frail to me, not 'experienced, just in older technology' $\endgroup$ – Sean Houlihane May 26 '17 at 15:23
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    $\begingroup$ Or perhaps something like adult-education? $\endgroup$ – Ben I. May 26 '17 at 16:22
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I don't think you should tag questions with either the grade or experience level of the target audience. If that context is important (it typically would be), you should clearly describe the context of your specific situation in the body of the post. Tags are meant to describe the subject of the question, not to specify how it should be answered or of whom it is being asked.

This isn't all that different than tagging a question [beginner] or [layman] or any other meta tags we explicitly discourage on other sites. When you start needing a hierarchy of tags just to describe the difference between a 1st-year advanced student vs. an introductory course offered in a graduate curriculum, the purpose of those tags stop making sense. Ultimately they're just filler that don't actually describe the subject of the question — and that's where folks stop tagging questions properly, when they find a few [question] and [beginner] tags, but fail to actually described the question at all.

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    $\begingroup$ I don't believe these are meta tags. A meta tag would indicate, for example, the asker's experience with teaching. Different target groups need very different teaching approaches, so having these tags will be valuable as you can favourite / ignore them. It also means that this information is part of the subject of the question. Yes, it also specifies whom the question is being asked, just like the 'c' tag on SO indicates that it is asked to C programmers. These tags do not indicate how a question should be answered though, since they don't give details about the asker's level. $\endgroup$ – Keelan May 24 '17 at 5:03
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    $\begingroup$ @Keelan It's already happening. Before I cleaned up some of the errant tagging, the most used tags said little more than "how to teach" and "how to teach beginners" at the exclusion of almost every other rarely-used tag on the site. Seems better now, but I hope that trend does not continue. I can only share what I've observed in launching ~180 sites. I'll leave it there; whatever the community decides. $\endgroup$ – Robert Cartaino May 24 '17 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ So, is the main problem is that newcomers may interpret these tags as 'meta-tags'? The intention of these tags seems to me to specify context that is necessary to know in order to answer a large amount of questions, similar to the country tags on academia.SE. I think there will be no problem if the tags are used as intended. Whether they will be used correctly is probably something we'll have to wait and see (and possibly enforce/encourage). $\endgroup$ – Discrete lizard May 25 '17 at 10:36
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    $\begingroup$ These tags seem necessary when it comes to education due to how incredibly different answers should be based on the relevant level of education; Computer Science courses span from extremely gentle intros for young children to complex discussions in graduate school. These discussions can't be delineated by topic since the same topics appear again and again, changing in scope and complexity along the way. $\endgroup$ – Nat May 26 '17 at 5:20
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    $\begingroup$ As you said, "Tags are meant to describe the subject of the question," and here education, and the level thereof, is the subject. $\endgroup$ – Gypsy Spellweaver May 30 '17 at 8:41

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