Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Computers in Education
Learning to program is a complex task and has been documented as a persistent challenge. Based on literature documenting writing as a vehicle to help students learn, the authors propose integrating Writing-to-Learn (WTL) strategies in support of learning to program. WTL activities are usually short, low-stakes writing assignments that are designed to promote reflection, analysis, synthesis, and deeper understanding of course material. When integrated into a problem-solving assignment, such as a programming lab, WTL prompts allow students to think about the choices they are making and the reasons for those choices. Students’ writings become an artifact of the changes and growth that accompany learning and provide instructors with a rare insight into students’ learning, including thinking and organizational processes. While others have shown that writing reflections after programming supports learning, we are investigating the impact of fully integrating explanations and reflections into the act of programming. In our implementation, we follow the principles of Knuth’s literate programming paradigm, which views programming as authoring a document that happens to contain source code.
As a first step in investigating how intermingled writing and coding can improve the process of learning to program, we have employed qualitative methods to create a qualitative codebook of students’ commenting patterns. Using systematic open coding techniques outlined by Strauss and Corbin, we examined source code comments from students’ introductory programming laboratory assignments in two phases. First, we analyzed each source code comment line-by-line to determine if it contained meaningful information about the author’s thinking process and the type of thinking it represented (e.g., explaining an action, providing justification for a design choice). Our examination resulted in five categories of comments: literal, conceptual, reflective, organizational, and insufficient. Second, we re-analyzed source code comments as a group to determine the visual organizational scheme. Our examination resulted in four categories: unitization, every-line, block-level, and insufficient.
This paper will include a detailed description of the qualitative methods used to create the codebook, including an overview of open coding techniques. The current codebook will be presented including illustrative examples of each comment category. We will also present the results from our initial analysis of student source code using our codebook, which found that students in the traditional instruction laboratories used a literal/every-line or a conceptual/every-line commenting style, while students in the Writing-to-Learn laboratories used a literal/every-line or a conceptual/unitization commenting style.
Mohammadi-Aragh, M. J., & Beck, P. J., & Barton, A. K., & Reese, D., & Jones, B. A., & Jankun-Kelly, M. (2018, June), Coding the Coders: A Qualitative Investigation of Students’ Commenting Patterns Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30198
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