Teaching and Learning Computer Programming: Multiple Research Perspectives

By Richard E. Mayer | Go to book overview

course" in programming. A bridge course, like the metacourse, would be an add-on, designed to supplement normal programming instruction by providing appropriate strategies and mental models. The bridge course probably would use many of the broad concepts that appear in the metacourse. However, when tradeoffs between the objectives of fostering programming competency and cognitive skills appeared, the resolution would favor the latter rather than the former.

This does not mean that attention to programming competency would be abandoned, of course. After all, one would still be trying to foster cognitive skills through programming, and that could hardly be done without managing better the development of the programming skills themselves. But even within that constraint, many choices can be made. For instance, one would select vocabulary somewhat less contextualized to programming, that still works adequately for programming (albeit not quite as smoothly), but that made salient connections with other domains.

In summary, we urge that a more powerful pedagogy of programming is a possibility that deserves pursuit. Such a pedagogy could serve such targets of development as programming competency, cognitive skills, or an understanding of modern times. The metacourse presented here, the bridge course briefly characterized, and, of course, other innovations, are potential contributors to such a pedagogy. At the same time, however, we urge that differences in the demand characteristics of these different targets need to be recognized. Programming instruction optimized for the development of programming, cognitive skills, or a perspective on contemporary culture would not take just the same form, although it would involve many of the same broad principles -- attention to mental models, strategies, and so on. Thus, it is really not reasonable to ask sweepingly how programming can be taught effectively. One needs to ask: Programming instruction to what end?


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The "Metacourse" discussed here is the product of the programming group at the Educational Technology Center, all the members of which are thanked for their many contributions. The research reported here was supported by the Office of Educational Research and Improvement (contract #OERI 400-83-0041). Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily shared by OERI and do not represent Office policy.


REFERENCES

Bereiter, C., & Scardamalia, M. ( 1985). "Cognitive coping strategies and the problem of inert knowledge". In S. S. Chipman, J. W. Segal, & R. Glaser (Eds.), Thinking and learning skills, Vol. 2: Current research and open questions (pp. 65-80). Hillsdale, NJyy: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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