Teaching and learning to program : a qualitative study of Hong Kong sub-degree students

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This study investigates the experiences of the Hong Kong sub-degree students in learning computer programming and explores ways to help the students learn more effectively. In Hong Kong, sub-degree programs are offered to increase the number of students studying post-secondary education. The performance of the sub-degree students is weaker than that of undergraduate students. Learning computer programming is a challenge for most post-secondary students and especially for sub-degree students. A considerable amount of research has been done in teaching and learning programming in the last decade. However, most of this research was targeted to Western undergraduates. The findings of this research might not be applicable to Chinese students or to the weaker Hong Kong sub-degree students. This study attempts to fill this gap. A theory-seeking case study research is conducted to investigate students’ learning of programming. The researcher collected and analysed data from semi-structured interviews. Other data sources – active participant observations, reflective memos, and analysis of students’ programming assignments and examination – are used to triangulate the data from the interviews. The grounded theory that emerged, the theory of ‘Performance Improvement of Programming’, offers an exploratory insight into the experiences of the Hong Kong sub-degree students in learning to program. It addresses the distinctive challenges facing Hong Kong students in learning, learning styles, and strategies. This study also suggests practical strategies in light of the students’ characteristics in order to assist their learning of programming.
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