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Student Attitudes Towards The Use Of Graphical Programming Languages

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Programming for Engineering Students II

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1105.1 - 13.1105.11



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Paper Authors


Jeremy Garrett Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Jeremy Garrett is currently working on his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, with a specialization in Integrative S.T.E.M. Education, at Virginia Tech. His doctoral research, which he has recently begun, is on college freshmen-level engineering design curriculum. He has an M.S. in Applied and Industrial Physics from Virginia Tech, and a B.S. in Physics from Western (North) Carolina University. He has been teaching freshmen and sophomore general engineering courses for the last four years (some years as a lead teacher / instructor and some years as an
assistant / GTA). Prior to that, he worked, for approximately two years, doing a combination of computer programming (primarily C++ and LabVIEW) and engineering research (fiber optic sensor design and testing as well as automotive adhesive testing).

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Thomas Walker Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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Tom Walker is an associate professor in the Engineering Education Department at Virginia Tech. His research interests are in the areas of active and collaborative learning, both synchronous and asynchronous in the engineering learning space, educational technologies, distance-learning, and object-oriented engineering design.

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

Student Attitudes towards the Use of Graphical Programming Languages In an Introductory Engineering Course


In the fall and spring of 2007 freshmen CS, CPE, and EE students at Virginia Tech had the unique experience of working with five or six programming languages, all within one year and all for the purpose of developing fundamental programming skills. One of those languages was purely educational in nature (Alice), three were traditional and text-based (C++, Java, and MATLABTM script), but two were unique graphical languages (RAPTORTM and LabVIEWTM). This paper briefly describes how teaching with graphical programming languages is consistent with the learning theories of constructivism and multiple intelligences. This paper also describes how a survey was used to take advantage of this unique opportunity to measure freshman student perceptions of relevance, general attitude, and recommendations for further use of each of these six programming languages. This paper concludes by describing the results of that survey and by discussing some implications of the results.

Keywords: freshman, graphical programming, computer programming, LabVIEW, RAPTOR


In the fall of 2006 and spring of 2007 freshmen engineering students at Virginia Tech intending to enter into CS, CPE, and EE majors had the unique experience of working with five or six different programming languages, all for the purpose of developing fundamental programming skills. Of those five languages one was purely educational in nature (Alice), three were traditional text-based programming languages (C++, and MATLABTM script programming), but two were unique graphical programming languages (Raptor and LabVIEWTM). A few of the students also worked with Java, which is a traditional text-based language similar to C++. That unusual circumstance provided a rare opportunity to probe student attitudes towards the use of graphical programming languages in introductory programming courses, and to compare those attitudes against their attitudes towards both a purely educational language and traditional text- based languages in those same environments. In order to take advantage of that opportunity a survey was developed and implemented at the end of the spring 2007 semester. The survey asked the students to answer a common set of questions, eight questions for each of the six languages. Those questions included perceptions of relevance and perceptions of effects on self- confidence (also known as “self-efficacy”). The survey also asked the students whether, or not, they would recommend each programming language for use with future students. Although the surveys were anonymous, standard demographic data was requested, and that has allowed simple comparisons to be made not only between programming languages but also to compare the attitudes of women and minorities to those of white males (for this study, the responses of women and minorities were combined during the statistical analysis). It should be noted that the use of the terms “LabVIEW” and “MATLAB” refer to the registered trademarks for commercial products developed by National Instruments and MathWorks, respectively.

Garrett, J., & Walker, T. (2008, June), Student Attitudes Towards The Use Of Graphical Programming Languages Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3239

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