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Evaluating the Effectiveness of Lab Practice in the Context of Prior Programming Experience in an Introductory Programming Course

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2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


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Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

Computing and Information Technology Division Technical Session 3

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Computing and Information Technology

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Caleb James O'Malley University of Florida

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Caleb O'Malley is a third-year undergraduate student of Computer Engineering at the University of Florida. Caleb has been a research assistant with the Computational Reasoning Group at UF for over a year, studying different aspects of computer science education for non-majors.

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Ashish Aggarwal University of Florida Orcid 16x16

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Ashish Aggarwal is a Lecturer of Computer Science in the Department of Engineering Education at the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, University of Florida. His research focuses on Computer Science Education and Learning Analytics where he studies the effectiveness of different learning approaches on students' learning outcomes and performance in introductory programming courses.

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Understanding major factors, which influence students’ learning outcomes in introductory programming (CS1) courses, enables educators to make more effective course designs and provide more valuable learning experiences. Factors like gender and prior programming experience have been studied and linked to students’ success, but there is little an instructor can do to change them. As the enrollments continue to increase and diversify, it will be useful for instructors to know what type of course design is effective for which category of students. The lab component of the course provides additional practice to students, but less is known about the usefulness of the lab practice in students’ success. We are interested in understanding the effectiveness of lab practice in improving a students’ learning outcomes in CS1 courses, especially in the context of prior programming experience. We present the analysis from a CS1 course for non-majors where 82 students were enrolled in a two-credit course, out of which 29 were also enrolled in a one-credit programming lab course. We find that overall lab enrollment is a factor affecting student performance. However, students with little to no prior programming experience benefit significantly more from the lab, compared to students with substantial programming experience. This effect is further found to be concentrated towards the first half of the course, implying a greater importance of the lab in the first few weeks of the course. These results will help guide instructors in tailoring the course design to meet the needs of students with varying prior programming experiences.

O'Malley, C. J., & Aggarwal, A. (2020, June), Evaluating the Effectiveness of Lab Practice in the Context of Prior Programming Experience in an Introductory Programming Course Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34597

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