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Do Introverts Perform Better In Computer Programming Courses?

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Curricular Issues in Computer-Oriented Programs

Tagged Division

Information Systems

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.496.1 - 14.496.9



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Paper Authors


Kyle Lutes Purdue University

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Kyle Lutes is an Associate Professor for the Department of Computer & Information Technology (CIT) at Purdue University. Kyle joined the department in 1998 and is the chair of the department’s software development curriculum. His teaching and scholarly interests cover a broad range of software development areas including software applications for mobile devices, data-centered application development, and software entrepreneurialism. He has authored/co-authored numerous papers and two college textbooks on various software development-related topics. Prior to his current appointment at Purdue, Kyle worked for 16 years as a software engineer and developed systems for such industries as banking, telecommunications, publishing, healthcare, athletic recruiting, retail, and pharmaceutical sales.

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Alka Harriger Purdue University

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Alka Harriger joined the faculty of the Computer and Information Technology Department (CIT) in 1982 and is currently a Professor of CIT and Assistant Department Head. Professor Harriger's current interests include reducing the IT gender gap, web application development, and service learning. Since January 2008, she has been leading the NSF-ITEST SPIRIT project that seeks to rekindle enthusiasm for information technology disciplines as a career choice among high school students, especially young women.

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Jack Purdum Purdue University

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Dr. Jack Purdum has authored over 13 programming texts, numerous magazine articles and technical papers, and has over 25 years of teaching experience. He served as the director of development for a software company that produced programming tools, compilers, and statistical software for PC's coupled wit almost 30 years of consulting experience.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Do Introverts Perform Better in Computer Programming Courses?


Any educator who has taught computer programming courses knows that some students have a very difficult time learning the basic concepts of computer programming. There often is no middle ground with the grades in these courses. Once a student catches on to the basic concepts, he or she has an easy time with the rest of the course. However, some students of high intelligence and who receive high marks in non-programming courses seem to continually struggle through these courses. Recently while reading about the personality traits of introverts, we noticed that many qualities attributed to introverts also match the traits found in great computer programmers. For example, attention to detail, the ability to concentrate for long periods of time and good logical thinking skills are published qualities found in both introverts and successful software developers. To see if we could find any correlation with a student’s tendency towards introversion or extroversion, and potential success in our computer programming courses, we performed a study during the Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 semesters. We gave all students enrolled in each of the five programming courses we offered these semesters a short personality trait test and then compared their tendencies towards introversion or extroversion with the letter grade they received at the end of the course. We anticipated finding higher grades among those students classified as introverts and lower grades among those students classified as extroverts. Additionally, we anticipated finding a higher number of introverts enrolled in our upper division programming courses because these courses are elective. In this paper we will explore the traits found in introverts and programmers in more detail, discuss the personality test we used, and present our complete findings.


As educators who primarily teach software development courses, we know that some students have a very difficult time learning the fundamentals of computer programming. There often is no middle ground with the grades in these introductory courses. Students who catch on to the basic concepts of computer programming have an easy time with the remainder of the course work. The students who don’t grasp the fundamentals struggle the entire term. Because of their failing grade and/or lack of knowledge, these students must retake the course or may even switch majors.

Failure to earn a passing grade in a college course is often directly attributable to the effort put forth by the student. However, the authors of this study have each known many students of seemingly high intelligence and who normally earn high marks in non-programming courses, struggle with our computer programming courses. For example, one student who graduated as the high school valedictorian could not pass our introductory programming course on the first try.

During a counseling session with one student who was failing our introductory programming course, the lead author of this study discussed the student’s personality traits with him. This conversation was prompted by the author having just finished reading “The Introvert Advantage

Lutes, K., & Harriger, A., & Purdum, J. (2009, June), Do Introverts Perform Better In Computer Programming Courses? Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5451

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2009 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015