Transformative and troublesome? Students’ and professional programmers’ perspectives on difficult concepts in programming

Yeomans, Lucy, Zschaler, Steffan and Coate, Kelly (2018) Transformative and troublesome? Students’ and professional programmers’ perspectives on difficult concepts in programming. ACM Transactions on Computing Education. ISSN 1946-6226 (Accepted)

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Abstract

Programming skills are an increasingly desirable asset for higher education students across disciplines; however, learning to program continues to be difficult to master for many students. The heterogeneity of student cohorts in most computer science courses makes it challenging to isolate the concepts within programming that are particularly hard for all students to understand (i.e., 'threshold concepts'). As a result, there is a lack of consensus over the threshold concepts that are relevant to those learning programming. This paper draws on a qualitative study using focus groups with undergraduates and professional software developers to identify potential threshold concepts in programming. Data from the focus groups were thematically coded and analyzed using a theoretical framework based on established criteria for threshold concepts. In particular, we focused on concepts that were both troublesome and transformative and included other characteristics such as participants' partiality of understanding. Six potential threshold concepts were identified in the majority of the focus groups, including abstract classes, data structures and designing objects. Further analysis of the data identified additional concepts that may hinder rather than help the learning of these threshold concepts, which we have called 'accidental complexities'.

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of Education and Social Work > Education
Subjects: L Education
Depositing User: Deeptima Massey
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2018 15:38
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2018 15:38
URI: http://srodev.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/80233

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