UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

What teachers know about programming Gervin, Debbe


Research into the teaching of computer programming seldom examines the profound and abundant knowledge of classroom practitioners. Further, little research has been carried out which compares the learning and teaching of procedural programming to the learning and teaching of other programming paradigms. In this study, teachers of post-secondary computer programming were interviewed in order to gain an understanding of the ways in which their knowledge about programming and their knowledge about teaching programming are related and in order to get a sense of the conceptual frameworks within which their knowledge is formed. The results of the study indicate that knowledge about programming and knowledge about teaching programming are strongly related. The respondents' teaching and programming experience, the social contexts within which they operate, their desire for control, their programming paradigm experience and the mental models they employ when programming shape the ways in which they program and the ways in which they teach. All of the respondents feel that languages and paradigms affect the way programmers think when programming. As well, those with broad experience feel that because there are large differences between paradigms, shifting from one paradigm to another is very difficult. Thus they feel that the choice of students' first programming language is critical. There appears to be a strong relationship between respondents' paradigm experience and the mental models they use. Those respondents with experience in multiple paradigms tend to use more abstract models than those who have been exposed primarily to the procedural paradigm. These more experienced respondents feel that they are able to choose languages that match the way they think. The results of the study imply that investigations of programming education research and practice can benefit from an understanding of researchers' and practitioners' frameworks. In particular, it appears that the choice of programming paradigm strongly influences research studies and classroom teaching.

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