June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
Computing & Information Technology
24.1280.1 - 24.1280.12
Transition from Concepts to Practical Skills in Computer Programming Courses: Factor and Cluster AnalysisComputer programming courses are gateway courses with low passing grades, which may resultin student attrition and transfers out of engineering and computer science degrees. Barriers tosuccess include a good understanding of programming concepts and the ability to apply thoseconcepts to write viable computer programs.In this paper, we analyze the determinants of the transition from concepts to skills in computerprogramming courses using factor and cluster analysis. The purpose of this study is to answertwo questions related to computer programming teaching and learning: 1) Which are thecorrelations and interdependencies in student understanding of different computer programmingconcepts? Which are the cognitive challenges that students find when learning programmingconcepts? 2) How the understanding of different programming concepts relate to practical skillsin computer programming. What determines a successful transition from understanding theconcepts to the ability to write viable computer programs?We grouped student performance computer programming concepts assessments (in a first Javaprogramming course) in seven different categories: assignment operators, repetition structures,selection structures, program design using methods, arrays, classes and Java syntax. Factoranalysis identified two factors (components) grouping the interdependencies and correlationsbetween programming concept categories. A first component correlated with the repetition andselection categories, and could be referred to as the “algorithmic” component. The secondcomponent correlated with the methods, arrays and assignment categories, and could be referredas the “structural” component. Student performance in conceptual categories related to the“algorithmic” factor was significantly better than in conceptual categories related to the“structural” factor. Cluster analysis showed that student performance in the “structural”conceptual component is predictive of the student’s ability to solve practical computerprogramming problems.We conclude that a strong emphasis in the structural components of computer programming (i.e.program design using methods, use of the assignment operator, and use of data structures likearrays) is necessary for a successful transition from concepts to skills in computer programmingcourses.
Cabo, C. (2014, June), Transition from Concepts to Practical Skills in Computer Programming Courses: Factor and Cluster Analysis Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. https://peer.asee.org/23213
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