July 26, 2021
July 26, 2021
July 19, 2022
Educational Research and Methods
Diagrams in data structures provide a valuable context for untangling the relationship between spatial ability and persistence in computer science, but we have little understanding about what kinds of diagrams are used. Spatial ability is a strong predictor of success in computer science, and data structures tend to rely on spatially oriented language and tasks (e.g., nodes moving, pointers pointing). However, beyond these examples, we lack a formal understanding of how diagrams are drawn and used for instruction and how spatial ability may be related to these diagrams. In this paper, we present an initial study using phenomenographic methods to explore how YouTubers draw and animate linked list diagrams in instructional videos. YouTube™, while not a traditional resource, provides access to instructors who come from all over the world, increasing the variety of our data set. Through inductive coding, we developed a code book to describe how the diagrams were crafted and how diagrams were manipulated to illustrate insertion. We found that every YouTuber used diagrams, indicating their prevalence. YouTubers also used consistent language (e.g., “head,” “tail,” “node”) and similar talking points (e.g., comparison to arrays). However, there was considerable variance in how linked lists were represented. Representational choices seemed to change in response to instructional goals or tasks. Finally, we discuss possibilities for standardizing diagrams moving forward, what may be spatial about these diagrams, and the implications of uncommon codes.
Fong, M. M., & Poulsen, S., & Herman, G. L. (2021, July), What's in a Linked List? A Phenomenographic Study of Data Structure Diagrams Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/38052
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