March 20, 2020

Three irrational mistakes that make you flunk out of coding bootcamps

When Coder Foundry first launched we used coding exercises to test who was ready for our fast-paced, immersive course. But the tests failed to accurately predict who would do well in the class. We learned the hard way that there's a hidden barrier that hinders you when you want to change careers and learning how to code. Who can scale that barrier can't be determined by measuring an IQ or previous experience with programming.

And we're not the first to discover this fact. In 2009 a trio of university researchers studied an "Intro to Programming" class to learn the commonalities and differences between students who succeeded and failed.

Before the course began they gave student a set of coding tests. Then they followed the students' progress to the end of the semester. Here's what they found:

"Despite the tendency of institutions to rely on students' prior programming background as a positive predictor factor for success, programming background has only a weak and insignificant effect on novices' success at best."

In other words, if you're brand new to programming you have the same shot at success as someone who already has experience.

Course Report's own study of student outcomes suggests the same thing. Coding Bootcamp graduates who had no prior experience had an average salary of only $3,888 less than graduates who already had some experience with code.

So if experience doesn't determine success in a coding bootcamp, then what does? We studied our own students, compared it to the latest education science and discovered three irrational mistakes that many bootcampers make.

Irrational Mistake #1: Imposter Syndrome

Imposter Syndrome is unfounded self-doubt in your own abilities. It's especially pervasive in the tech industry, and students are particularly vulnerable to it.

Read Coder Foundry's full take on Imposter Syndrome and how to overcome it.

Irrational Mistake #2: The Talent Myth

Our society used to believe that you either had the talent to be a developer, or you didn't.

We now understand, thanks to scientific research into the effects of learning and practice, that programming languages and tools can be taught to almost anyone.

If you're willing to focus and work hard, if you have what cognitive scientists call "grit" you can acquire the skills of professional developer.

Read Coder Foundry's full take on "grit" and programming. You'll also get a quiz that measures the amount of personal grit you have.

Irrational Mistake #3: The Fixed Mindset

The cousin of the Talent Myth is the Fixed Mindset. This is when you believe that you're either good or bad at programming, and nothing can change that.

Recent advances in brain scanning have revealed that your living brain actually changes when you put effort into mastering a new skill. This new physical evidence closed the door on the philosophical debate or "nature vs nurture".

That miracle of humanity is that we are built to be adaptable. If ancient tribes in North America learned how to migrate south and grow entirely new kinds of foods, then yes, you can switch careers and become a developer after just a few weeks in a coding bootcamp.

Read Coder Foundry's full take on The Growth Mindset, which is the antidote to the Fixed Mindset.

How We Made Coder Foundry More Rational

Once we learned the irrational barriers to becoming a successful programmer we stopped using coding exercises as screeners. Instead we rely on 1-to-1 consultative interviews with each prospective student. This is the best way to determine if Imposter Syndrome, The Talent Myth, or a Fixed Mindset will hold back your progress.

The result? We are now much better equipped to help students determine if a coding bootcamp like Coder Foundry is the right option for them.

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