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Effectiveness of Using Guided Peer Code Review to Support Learning of Programming Concepts in a CS2 Course: A Pilot Study

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computers in Education Division Technical Session 6: Computer Science Freshman Courses

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Tamaike Brown State University of New York at Oswego

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Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Department of Computer Science, State University of New York at Oswego

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Gursimran Singh Walia Georgia Southern University

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Gursimran S. Walia is Professor of Computer Science at Georgia Southern University. His main research interests include empirical software engineering, software engineering education, human factors in software engineering, and software quality. He is a member of the IEEE Computer Society. Contact him at

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Alex David Radermacher North Dakota State University

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Alex Radermacher is a lecturer at North Dakota State University. He teaches introductory programming courses as well as upper-level software engineering courses including the department's Senior Capstone Design course. His research interests include student learning, software testing, and software development processes.

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Maninder Singh St. Cloud State University

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Mourya Reddy Narasareddygari Rider University

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This full research paper builds on our previous research that showed evidence that using peer code reviews (PCR) can help students improve their programming skills in an introductory programming class. The results from the initial study showed that while PCR is useful for helping students understand difficult CS1 topics, students often overlooked errors and lacked the ability to retain information about common errors. This paper focuses on developing a guided PCR technique that students can utilize as part of code reviews (to find errors) as well as during code development (to avoid making those errors). Motivated by the previous findings, this research developed and empirically validated the usefulness of a guided (checklist) PCR technique in a CS2 classroom. The PCR technique included a checklist of steps that students were asked to follow in order to systematically check for programming errors when reading parts of the program source code. To evaluate the guided PCR technique, two runs of an experiment were conducted over the course of four weeks in one CS2 classroom. The researchers in consultation with the course instructor developed four pieces of code for error abstraction, with each piece of code becoming progressively more difficult, both in terms of programming concepts covered and the number of SLOC. In each piece of code, five categories of errors were seeded with an average of 20 errors in total; at least one error belonging to each category was seeded in each piece of code. The seeding of errors was done with input from instructors who have identified major errors committed by students in the CS2 programming course at XXX. During each week, students were given a piece of code covering a specific topic and were asked to review and find errors in the code using the checklist. Students would then record their errors using an error reporting sheet. Following each guided PCR session, students were asked to reflect on their review results, discuss errors, and ways to avoid them when developing their own programs. We analyzed data gathered from the guided PCR sessions, reflection sessions post PCR, and a feedback survey conducted at the end of the study. The results of the guided PCR session provide insights into the most and least reported errors. We also found evidence of improvement in students’ understanding of specific topic areas in programming as a result of using this technique. We performed a correlation analysis between the total number of category errors reported per topic during guided PCR and the students’ performance on assignments covering specific topics. Based on the results, students who are able to find more errors during the guided PCR session on a particular topic are able to score better on their lab assignments that covered the same topic.

Brown, T., & Walia, G. S., & Radermacher, A. D., & Singh, M., & Narasareddygari, M. R. (2020, June), Effectiveness of Using Guided Peer Code Review to Support Learning of Programming Concepts in a CS2 Course: A Pilot Study Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34504

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