Early Relational Reasoning and the Novice Programmer: Swapping as the Hello World of Relational Reasoning

Australian Computer Society
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Thirteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference, 2011, pp. 95 - 104
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Abstract We report on a longitudinal research study of the development of novice programmers in their first semester of programming. In the third week, almost half of our sample of students could not answer an explain-in-plain-English question, for code consisting of just three assignment statements, which swapped the values in two variables. We regard code that swaps the values of two variables as the simplest case of where a programming student can manifest a SOLO relational response. Our results demonstrate that the problems many students face with understanding code can begin very early, on relatively trivial code. However, using traditional programming exercises, these problems often go undetected until late in the semester. New approaches are required to detect and fix these problems earlier.
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