Teaching and Learning Computer Programming: Multiple Research Perspectives

By Richard E. Mayer | Go to book overview
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curriculum options. However, the promising transfer results presented in this volume suggest that it is premature to give up on computer programming as a potentially useful part of school curricula.

It is clear that educators must give more careful consideration to their instructional goals and instructional methods. Educators must decide whether the goal of instruction is proficiency in programming per se or whether the goal is to also help students understand something about their own thinking processes. Different kinds of instructional methods are required to support the different kinds of goals. In particular, when the goal is transfer, instructional methods must provide guidance to students concerning the planning and conceptual knowledge that is required. Pure discovery has a place in the educator's box of instructional tools, but it is clear that nondirective techniques by themselves do not generally produce the desired results. As many authors point out in this book, students need practice and guidance in describing alternative processes for solving various programming problems.

Research presented in this book also suggests that students often bring unproductive preconceptions about programming to the classroom. Learning to program involves not just adding new knowledge to one's memory; in addition, it involves replacing initial misconceptions with more productive mental models and concepts.

Finally, this book suggests some implications for assessment. Instead of focusing only on gross measures of learning, such as whether or not a student can write a program to solve a problem, more attention needs to be paid to specific changes in the students' knowledge. For example, educators should assess their students' mental models of the system, metacognitive skills, understanding of specific programming concepts, and strategic planning skills.

If this book stimulates further research that contributes to theory or practice in computer programming, it should be considered a success.


Clements, D. H., & Gullo, D. F. ( 1984). "Effects of computer programming on young children's cognition". Journal of Educational Psychology, 76, 1051-1058.

Dalbey, J., & Linn, M. C. ( 1985). "The demands and requirements of computer programming: A literature review". Journal of Educational Computing Research, 1, 253-274.

Fay, A. L., & Mayer, R. E. ( 1987). "Children's naive conceptions and confusions about LOGO graphics commands". Journal of Educational Psychology, 79, 254-268.

Gorman, H., & Bourne, L. E. ( 1983). "Learning to think by learning LOGO: Rule learning in third grade computer programmers". Bulletin of the Psychonomic Society, 21, 165-167.

Gregg, L. W. ( 1978). "Spatial concepts, spatial names, and the development of exocentric representations". In R. Siegler (Ed.), Children's thinking: What develops? (pp. 275-290). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Kurland, D. M., & Pea, R. D. ( 1985). "Children's mental models of recursive LOGO programs". Journal of Educational Computing Research, 1, 235-244.


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