Variation observed among some S4 students in learning elementary Pascal programming - Report on debugging behaviours Tam Wing Ching
Motivation of study Got complaints from students that it was hard to do programming assignments Wanted to discern the variations of students in learning elementary Pascal programming
Methodology Objective How students act and react to when they are doing programming practice in front of computerHow students act and react to when they are doing programming practice in front of computer Aim To narrow down focus, 2 buggy programs were given to 6 S4 students taking Computer Studies and observed their performances during debuggingTo narrow down focus, 2 buggy programs were given to 6 S4 students taking Computer Studies and observed their performances during debugging
Method of experiment Rules In the experiments, students were required to save their program trial each time to a new file before trying to execute.In the experiments, students were required to save their program trial each time to a new file before trying to execute. Students could do any modification and tried to finish the programs initially with no external help but could do so afterwards when necessary.Students could do any modification and tried to finish the programs initially with no external help but could do so afterwards when necessary. Equipment Pascal compiler: Turbo Pascal 5.5Pascal compiler: Turbo Pascal 5.5
Program 1 program mark begin case mark ‘ 0 ’.. ’ 69 ’ : grade(f) ‘ 70 ’.. ’ 79 ’ : grade(c) ‘ 80 ’.. ’ 89 ’ : grade(b) ‘ 90 ’.. ’ 100 ’ : grade(a) end.
Program 2 program quardratic; var a, b, c: integer; begin writeln( ‘ Please input a b c ’ ); readln(a b c); if then writeln( ‘ one root ’ ) if then writeln( ‘ two roots ’ ) if then writeln( ‘ imaginary roots ’ ) if then writeln( ‘ real root(s) ’ ) end.
Background of student S4 students taking Computer Studies Learned Computer Literacy from S1 to S3 on application programs No prior experience of Pascal before S4 Were taught about Pascal for 2 months before the experiments All required Pascal knowledge was taught before the experiments Had used the compiler for 1 month before the experiments
Analysis Principle Focused on how students act and reactFocused on how students act and react Time duration between trials not analyzedTime duration between trials not analyzed Method Trace programsTrace programs Find out what students ’ strategiesFind out what students ’ strategies
Categorization of performance Definition If in terms of how much student learned about Pascal knowledge being tested, it is reasonable to take the number of trials as the criteria of performance indicator.If in terms of how much student learned about Pascal knowledge being tested, it is reasonable to take the number of trials as the criteria of performance indicator. The fewer number of trials, the betterThe fewer number of trials, the better
Performance categorization Program 1 Number of trials Performan ce category Program 2 Number of trials Performan ce category Student A 11median 5median Student B 9median 2better Student C 4better 2better Student D 7median 7median Student E 29poorer 35poorer Student F 15poorer 7median
Characteristics of categorization (better group) Generally speaking, students in the better group have comparatively more intrinsic knowledge or understanding of the Pascal knowledge being tested in the programs. They need less number of trials to go through. Hence in this way, the computer provides a good means of visualization or implementation tool.
Characteristics of categorization (median group) Students in the median group often be “ reminded ” by the compiler error prompts or “ learned ” from the prompts while doing debugging. Or they could not handle too many program statements all together, hence letting the compiler to remind whenever there are errors. By observation, students in this group usually bear the strategies of trial and error. The criteria of successfulness in trial and error lies on 1. how much students learn about Pascal syntax1. how much students learn about Pascal syntax 2. only 1 probing correction place is needed on each trial and no more.2. only 1 probing correction place is needed on each trial and no more. 3. focus on one error place until it is solved.3. focus on one error place until it is solved.
Characteristics of categorization (poorer group) Students in this group usually have little knowledge about the Pascal syntax being tested. They also lack of organized trial and error strategy that more than one correction at a time and focus shifted alongside. No immediate fall back on previous work when error prompt persists.
Conclusion Both better and median group could be beneficial from programming practice in front of a computer. Of which, the median group comparatively gains the maximum use of the computer as a learning aid. However, the poorer group could be “ puzzled ” or “ defeated ” by the compiler error prompts after constant failures.
Discussion By variation theory in Phenomenography, we are suggested to let students experience more in order to make them learn. Also, from Szeto Wah ’ s passage, we are advised to avoid producing impact of constant failure. Therefore, we must take more attention to help the poorer group on doing programming practice. The screening method of the poorer group could be the demonstrated method in my experiments.
Further work This study is only a rough and premature work. It is a beginning of understanding of how my students react to the compiler error prompts during their learning of programming. It is not clearly known how students formulate their programs when doing program writing. Nor how many times of trials will be attempted on general before students give up in doing programming.
The END Special thanks to my supervisor Mr. Ki Wing Wah Thanks for listening