An Innovative Approach to Teaching First Year Programming Supported by Learning Style Investigation
Faculty of Regional Professional Studies
School of Regional Professional Studies / Centre for Sustainable Regional Futures
Murdoch University, School of Engineering Science, has since its inception in 1995 been actively embracing new challenges to improve teaching and learning within its courses. One of the aims of the school is to prepare students and empower them for the lifelong learning process. Since 1999 the use of Learning Style Inventories to monitor and address student learning has been undertaken, with great student interest and involvement. The importance of understanding the learning process is acknowledged by the inclusion of these surveys in our Engineering 1st year Foundation Unit, a general-purpose unit completed by most engineering students and many non-engineering students. By raising awareness of learning styles students are in a stronger position to take positive control of over their learning. Many students struggle with 1st year programming courses and understanding of basic concepts. This research uses P-Coder, a CASE tool developed within the school, to aid program design and development in 1st year Java programming units. This innovative approach is being monitored closely by performing pre and post tests throughout the year. Initial results highlight correlations between student learning styles and success in the pre test therefore identifying groups of students who may require additional help. This is a work in progress and tests will be continued at the start and end of each semester. If our research can identify students with preferred learning styles as "at risk" then we are in a better position to tailor support material to aid their learning knowledge uptake.