Manifestations of preoperational reasoning on similar programming tasks

Teague, Donna & Lister, Raymond (2014) Manifestations of preoperational reasoning on similar programming tasks. In Whalley, Jacqui & D'Souza, Daryl (Eds.) Proceedings of the Sixteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference [Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology, Volume 148], Australian Computer Society Inc., Auckland, New Zealand, pp. 65-74.

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In this research paper, we study a simple programming problem that only requires knowledge of variables and assignment statements, and yet we found that some early novice programmers had difficulty solving the problem. We also present data from think aloud studies which demonstrate the nature of those difficulties. We interpret our data within a neo-Piagetian framework which describes cognitive developmental stages through which students pass as they learn to program. We describe in detail think aloud sessions with novices who reason at the neo-Piagetian preoperational level. Those students exhibit two problems. First, they focus on very small parts of the code and lose sight of the "big picture". Second, they are prone to focus on superficial aspects of the task that are not functionally central to the solution. It is not until the transition into the concrete operational stage that decentration of focus occurs, and they have the cognitive ability to reason about abstract quantities that are conserved, and are equipped to adapt skills to closely related tasks. Our results, and the neo-Piagetian framework on which they are based, suggest that changes are necessary in teaching practice to better support novices who have not reached the concrete operational stage.

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ID Code: 67314
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: 16th Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE2014)
Additional URLs:
Keywords: novice programming, think aloud, HERN, Neo-Piagetian theory
ISBN: 978-1-921770-31-9
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > INFORMATION AND COMPUTING SCIENCES (080000) > COMPUTER SOFTWARE (080300)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2014 Australian Computer Society, Inc.
Copyright Statement: This paper appeared at the 16th Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE2014), Auckland, New Zealand, January 2014. Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT), Vol. 148. J. Whalley and D. D'Souza, Eds. Reproduction for academic, not-for-profit purposes permitted provided this text is included.
Deposited On: 13 Feb 2014 05:19
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2017 10:03

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