From Coder Merlin
Within these castle walls be forged Mavens of Computer Science ...
— Merlin, The Coder


theoretical understanding of a particular subject
for example: calculate the torque required to turn a screw (facts, concepts, principles)
practical ability in a particular topic that comes from training or practice
for example: using a screwdriver to rotate a screw until it is flush with a surface (processes, procedures, strategies)
the level of mastery of a specific knowledge or skill
for example: craftsman may use a scale of
novice → apprentice → journeyman → expert → master
to describe the level achieved in a specific knowledge or skill
the ability to employ a set of related knowledge and skills to perform a particular task
for example: applying knowledge and skills to design and build a wall
mastery of an entire domain, demonstrating extensive skills and knowledge with the ability to select successfully from among them for a particular task
for example: applying expert knowledge and skills to design and build a house
to understand is to make connections and bind together our knowledge into something that makes sense of things;
"To understand is to be able to wisely and effectively use—transfer— what we know, in context; to apply knowledge and skill effectively, in realistic tasks and settings. To have understood means that we show evidence of being able to transfer what we know. When we understand, we have a fluent and fluid grasp, not a rigid, formulaic grasp based only on recall and 'plugging in.'"
"...understanding is a mental construct, an abstraction made by the human mind to make sense of many distinct pieces of knowledge."
"...To understand is to have done it in the right way, often reflected in being able to explain why a particular skill, approach, or body of knowledge is or is not appropriate in a particular situation."
"Understanding is about transfer... To be truly able requires the ability to transfer what we have learned to new and sometimes confusing settings."
"[Understanding] is an essential ability because teachers can only help students learn a relatively small number of ideas, examples, facts, and skills in the entire field of study; so we need to help them transfer their inherently limited learning to many other settings, issues, and problems."
"[Understanding enables us to] come to see many “new” problems we encounter as variants of problems and techniques we are familiar with. That requires an education in how to problem solve using big ideas and transferable strategies, not merely how to plug in specific facts or formulas."
"...we [teachers] need to put students in a position to learn far more, on their own, than they can ever learn from us."
"Students develop flexible understanding of when, where, why, and how to use their knowledge to solve new problems if they learn how to extract underlying principles and themes from their learning exercises."
"What we call understanding is not a matter of mere semantics. It is a matter of conceptual clarity whereby we distinguish between a borrowed expert opinion and an internalized flexible idea."[1]

What differentiates revolutionary thinkers from non-revolutionary ones is almost never a greater knowledge of the facts. Darwin knew far less about the various species he collected on the Beagle voyage than did experts back in England who classified these organisms for him. Yet expert after expert missed the revolutionary significance of what Darwin had collected. Darwin, who knew less, somehow understood more.
— Frank J. Sulloway, Born to Rebel, 1996, p. 20

Coder Merlin Methodology[edit]

Students begin each lesson on the range for practice and conclude each lesson at the proving ground.

The Range[edit]

The Range
  • Students will study the wiki and other sources to gain knowledge
  • Students will practice skills primarily by using the  Merlin Mission Manager  but writing journals and using other software may also be required
  • Throughout the range students are eligible and encouraged to work with  Merlin Mavens™  to receive mentoring
  • Student competency is measured on the following scale:
  • Students may continue honing their skills until they reach the level of exemplary
  • Upon achieving the level of proficient students are eligible to demonstrate their competency at the Proving Ground
  • Upon achieving the level of exemplary students are awarded a sash as an indication of their success

The Proving Grounds[edit]

The Proving Ground
  • Students will demonstrate their mastery of a lesson's knowledge and skills at the proving grounds
  • Students will demonstrate their mastery primarily by using the  Merlin Mission Manager  but writing journals and using other software may also be required
  • Upon achieving the level of proficient students are awarded an insignia as an indication of their success


Mentorship is an essential component of the  Coder Merlin™  experience

  • Mentors are awarded experience points (XP) when students they have mentored demonstrate proficiency at the proving ground
  • The XP for a particular student's mentors are evenly divided amongst all mentors who have provided assistance for a particular topic
  • Upon achieving sufficient XP for a particular topic, mentors are awarded a medal

Student Progression[edit]

Location Achievement Model Grading Experience Points (XP) Sample Badge
The Range Emerging 50%
The Range Developing 65%
The Range Proficient 80% 4
The Range Exemplary 100% 5
The Proving Grounds Emerging 50%
The Proving Grounds Developing 65%
The Proving Grounds Proficient 80% 16
The Proving Grounds Exemplary 100% 20

Mentor Progression[edit]

Location Student Achievement Experience Points (XP) Sample Badge
The Proving Grounds Emerging
The Proving Grounds Developing
The Proving Grounds Proficient 16
The Proving Grounds Exemplary 20


  • If more than one mentor mentored a student for a particular topic, the points awarded to each mentor are divided by the number of mentors
  • Receiving a medal will not alter the number of insignias
  • The number of mentees per mentor per topic is not limited


  1. APA 7th Edition (American Psychological Assoc.) Grant Wiggins, & Jay McTighe. (2005). Understanding by Design: Vol. Expanded 2nd ed. ASCD.