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Improving the Affective Element in Introductory Programming Coursework for the “Non Programmer” Student

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Computer Programming and Simulation

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.723.1 - 24.723.11



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Paper Authors


David M. Whittinghill Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. David Whittinghill is an Assistant Professor of Computer Graphics Technology and Computer and Information Technology. Dr. Whittinghill' s research focuses on simulation, gaming and computer programming and how these technologies can more effectively address outstanding issues in health, education, and society in general.

Dr. Whittinghill leads projects in pediatric physical therapy, sustainable energy simulation, phobia treatment, cancer care simulation, and games as a tool for improving educational outcomes. Dr. Whittinghill is the director of

Prior to joining Purdue he was a senior software engineer in the research industry focused upon the fields of visualization, games, agent-based modeling, digital anti-tampering, robotics, pharmaceuticals, and web development. His primary skills expertise is in computer programming.

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David B. Nelson Purdue University

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K. Andrew R. Richards Purdue University

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Charles A. Calahan

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Improving the Affective Element in Introductory Programming Coursework for the “Non Programmer” StudentOver a period of several semesters, we examined undergraduate students who were enrolled inan introductory computer programming course. The goal of the study was to observe the degreeto which each student’s feelings about the discipline of programming were affected by theirexperience in this course. The course attempted to encourage a learning environment in whichstudents who were unfamiliar or intimidated by the discipline of programming would beinformed that the course is explicitly oriented toward them, rather than toward the moreadvanced students. The course was designed to defer to the needs of low-skill students such thatcontent progression was slow, thorough, and student centered. Students were surveyed at thebeginning of the semester on measures of: self-identified programming skill, years of previousprogramming experience, and like or dislike of programming. Students were then solicited at theend of semester and surveyed on perceived: appropriateness of difficulty, appropriateness of thedifficulty progression, their improvement as a programmer, and the degree to which theyincreased or decreased their enjoyment of programming. As the focus of this approach wasoriented toward students with low-positive feelings toward programming, we grouped studentsinto groups of high-dislike (HD) and low-dislike (LD), and then compared their individualchange of attitude toward programming at the end of the semester. Further, we collectedqualitative data in order to allow students to elaborate on why they felt the way they did. Weobserved that LD students reported greater measures of positive affect toward programming bythe end of the semester. Individual student comments are also highlighted and discussed. Theseresults indicate that approaches to increasing interest in programming education must beaccompanied by a supportive, student-centered learning environment that acknowledges thedifficulty of the subject matter.

Whittinghill, D. M., & Nelson, D. B., & R. Richards, K. A., & Calahan, C. A. (2014, June), Improving the Affective Element in Introductory Programming Coursework for the “Non Programmer” Student Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20615

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