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Work in Progress: Using Second Language Acquisition Techniques to Teach Programming - Results from a Two-Year Project

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Curricular Innovations 2

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Christina Frederick Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Frederick is currently a Professor and Graduate Program Coordinator in the Human Factors and Systems Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida. Dr. Frederick received her Ph.D. in 1991 from the University of Rochester with a major in Psychological Development. She previously taught at the University of Rochester, Southern Utah University and the University of Central Florida. In 2000, Dr. Frederick joined the Human Factors and Systems Department at Embry-Riddle, where her work focused on applied motivation and human factors issues in aviation/aerospace. Dr. Frederick also served in various roles in University administration between 2004-2012, including Vice President for Academics and Research. Dr. Frederick’s current research interests examine how individual differences interact with technology to enhance educational engagement and performance. Dr. Frederick is the author of more than 50 research publications, 4 book chapters and over 60 regional, national and international conference presentations on a wide range of topics in human factors and psychology. She is active in a number of professional associations, and is a Consultant for Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology.

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Lulu Sun Ph.D. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach

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Lulu Sun is an associate professor in the Engineering Fundamentals Department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where she has taught since 2006. She received her Ph.D. degree in Mechanical Engineering from University of California, Riverside, in 2006. Before joining Embry-riddle, she worked in the consulting firm of Arup at Los Angeles office as a fire engineer. Her research interests include second language acquisition in programming languages, flipped classrooms, and distance learning. She is a member of the American Society for Engineering Education.

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Work in Progress: Using Second Language Acquisition Techniques to Teach Programming. Results from a Two Year Project


This WIP paper presents two years of findings for an NSF funded project under the Research Initiation Grant in Engineering Education (RIGEE) program. The project is currently in the second year of implementation and assessment. Final results from the project will be presented and discussed at the annual ASEE conference. The project used second language acquisition (SLA) theory and techniques to facilitate learning in an introductory programming class. The project was developed by a multi-disciplinary team and involved multiple instructors and sections of an introductory programming class using MatLab. Each semester, instructors trained in SLA techniques taught sections of both the SLA-based and non-SLA based programming course, and the performance of the different type of course sections was compared. Assessment of effectiveness was conducted in a scientifically rigorous and extensive manner, using multiple surveys, student grades and instructor assessment. Results from the first year of implementation indicated that students in the SLA-based sections of the programming class exhibited higher end of course lab scores, exam scores and grades than students in non-SLA-based sections of the same course. In addition, students in the SLA-based sections reported higher levels of motivation and less frustration than students in the non-SLA-based sections of the class. Perceptions of faculty competence did not differ by type of course section or across faculty teaching the class. This project is continuing into its final year of implementation during the 2016-2017 academic year. Researchers will continue to assess the course using student perceptions, and class outcomes to determine effectiveness of the program. The proposed paper will focus on presenting two years of data from the project, including discussion of the overall success of using SLA techniques in engineering education. Ideas for future research and for use of SLA techniques will also be discussed, and information about dissemination of the materials created for this project will be provided.

Frederick, C., & Sun, L. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Using Second Language Acquisition Techniques to Teach Programming - Results from a Two-Year Project Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29188

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