Explain in Plain English Questions Revisited: Data Structures Problems

Publisher:
Association of Computing Machinery
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
Citation:
SIGCSE 14: Proceedings of the 45th ACM technical symposium on Computer science education, 2014, pp. 591 - 596
Issue Date:
2014-01
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Abstract: Recent studies have linked the ability of novice (CS1) programmers to read and explain code with their ability to write code. This study extends earlier work by asking CS2 students to explain object-oriented data structures problems that involve recursion. Results show a strong correlation between ability to explain code at an abstract level and performance on code writing and code reading test problems for these object-oriented data structures problems. The authors postulate that there is a common set of skills concerned with reasoning about programs that explains the correlation between writing code and explaining code. The authors suggest that an overly exclusive emphasis on code writing may be detrimental to learning to program. Non-code writing learning activities (e.g., reading and explaining code) are likely to improve student ability to reason about code and, by extension, improve student ability to write code. A judicious mix of code-writing and code-reading activities is recommended.
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