Date of Award

1-1-2005

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

School

School of Communications and Multimedia

Faculty

Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Professor Ron Oliver

Abstract

Learning to program is now a requirement in many courses of study in such areas as computer science, information technology, information systems, multimedia. engineering, and science. However, research indicates that many students have great difficulties in learning to program and this results in high failure rates and high levels of withdrawal from academic courses. It is accepted that programming is an intrinsically difficult subject however the teaching and learning methods used in many programming courses have changed little over the years. The literature indicates the importance of reducing the cognitive load that students experience when learning programming and that one method that has potential to do this uses part-complete program solutions. This study sought to explore a technology supported part-complete solution method (TSPCSM) for the learning of computer programming. A teaching and learning framework for programming was developed and a technology supported “COde Restucturing Tool” CORT, was then designed around the learning framework and developed to support the part-complete solution method and provide a suitable learning environment. A quasi-experimental research design framework was utilised in the study which used both qualitative and quantitative research methods. A series of programming problems was developed for CORT and an experiment was undertaken with students who were studying introductory programming. Experimental and control groups were utilised in the experiment which took place over a 14 week semester at an Australian university The data were analysed and they provided rich information concerning three research questions relating to the part-complete solution method (PCSM) through CORT: how students engaged with CORT; how CORT supported the learning process; and how CORT impacted upon their learning outcomes. Results from the study indicated that the PCSM within CORT imposed a low cognitive load on students; provided high levels of cognitive support; strong scaffolding for learning; and students engaged well with the system and generally used a thoughtful and considered strategy to solving programming problems. No differences in learning achievement were found between the experimental and control groups, however other findings indicated that the students who used the PCSM within CORT required significantly less time and less help than the control group and the students who benefited most from the use of CORT appeared to have well developed mental models of program execution, More research is clearly needed to further explore the best ways to implement CORT so that learning advantages can be gained e solution method and provide a suitable learning environment. A quasi-experimental research design framework was utilised in the study which used both qualitative and quantitative research methods. A series of programming problems was developed for CORT and an experiment was undertaken with students who were studying introductory programming. Experimental and control groups were utilised in the experiment which took place over a 14 week semester at an Australian university The data were analysed and they provided rich information concerning three research questions relating to the part-complete solution method (PCSM) through CORT: how students engaged with CORT; how CORT supported the learning process; and how CORT impacted upon their learning outcomes. Results from the study indicated that the PCSM within CORT imposed a low cognitive load on students; provided high levels of cognitive support; strong scaffolding for learning; and students engaged well with the system and generally used a thoughtful and considered strategy to solving programming problems. No differences in learning achievement were found between the experimental and control groups, however other findings indicated that the students who used the PCSM within CORT required significantly less time and less help than the control group and the students who benefited most from the use of CORT appeared to have well developed mental models of program execution, More research is clearly needed to further explore the best ways to implement CORT so that learning advantages can be gained to solving programming problems. No differences in learning achievement were found between the experimental and control groups, however other findings indicated that the students who used the PCSM within CORT required significantly less time and less help than the control group

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