Improving the affective element in introductory programming coursework for the “non programmer” student

David M. Whittinghill, David B. Nelson, K. Andrew R. Richards, Charles A. Calahan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over a period of several semesters, we examined undergraduate students who were enrolled in an introductory computer-programming course. The goal of the study was to observe the degree to which each student's feelings about the discipline of programming were affected by their experience in this course. The course attempted to encourage a learning environment in which students who were unfamiliar or intimidated by the discipline of programming would be informed that the course is explicitly oriented toward them, rather than toward the more advanced students. The course was designed to defer to the needs of low-skill students such that content progression was slow, thorough, and student centered. Students were surveyed at the beginning of the semester on measures of: self-identified programming skill, years of previous programming experience, and like or dislike of programming. Students were then solicited at the end of semester and surveyed on the degree to which they increased or decreased their enjoyment of programming. As the focus of this approach was oriented toward students with low-positive feelings toward programming, we grouped students into groups of high-positive (HP) and low-positive (LP), and then compared their individual change of attitude toward programming at the end of the semester. We observed that LP students reported greater measures of positive affect toward programming by the end of the semester. These results indicate that approaches to increasing interest in programming education must be accompanied by a supportive, student-centered learning environment that acknowledges the difficulty of the subject matter.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-81
Number of pages9
JournalComputers in Education Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Education


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