A closer look at tracing, explaining and code writing skills in the novice programmer

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Venables, Anne, Tan, Grace and Lister, Raymond (2009) A closer look at tracing, explaining and code writing skills in the novice programmer. In: Proceedings of the Fifth International Computing Education Research Workshop (ICER '09). Association for Computing Machinery, New York, pp. 117-128.


The way in which novice programmers learn to write code is of considerable interest to computing education researchers. One research approach to understanding how beginners acquire their programming abilities has been to look at student performance in exams. Lopez et al. (2008) analyzed student responses to an endof- first-semester exam. They found two types of questions accounted for 46% of the variance on the code writing portion of the same exam. One of those types of question required students to trace iterative code, while the other type required students to explain what a piece of code did. In this paper, we investigate whether the results by Lopez et al. may be generally indicative of something about novice programmers, or whether their results are just an artifact of their particular exam. We studied student responses to our own exam and our results are broadly consistent with Lopez et al. However, we did find that some aspects of their model are sensitive to the particular exam questions used. Specifically, we found that student performance on explaining code was hard to characterize, and the strength of the relationship between explaining and code writing is particularly sensitive to the specific questions asked. Additionally, we found Lopez et al.’s use of a Rasch model to be unnecessary, which will make it far easier for others to conduct similar research. ICER’09, August 10–11, 2009, Berkeley, California, USA.

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HERDC 2009, ERA 2012

Item type Book Section
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/22276
DOI 10.1145/1584322.1584336
Official URL http://dl.acm.org/ft_gateway.cfm?id=1584336&ftid=6...
ISBN 9781605586151
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 0803 Computer Software
Historical > FOR Classification > 0804 Data Format
Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Historical > SEO Classification > 9399 Other Education and Training
Current > Division/Research > College of Science and Engineering
Keywords ResPubID17095, novice programmer, tracing, comprehension, hierarchy, programming skills, BRACElet papers, writing code, Rasch model, grade distribution, Speeding task, control logic
Citations in Scopus 102 - View on Scopus
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