Novice Reflections during the Transition to a New Programming Language

Paul Denny, Brett A. Becker, Nigel Bosch, James Prather, Brent Reeves, Jacqueline Whalley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

Abstract

As computing students progress through their studies they become proficient with multiple programming languages. Prior work investigating language transitions for novices has tended to analyze program artifacts rather than explore the benefits and difficulties as perceived by students in their own words, and has often overlooked problems that may arise in switching paradigms or where familiar syntax has a different meaning in the new language. In this paper, we ask students to reflect on the transition from an interpreted language and environment (MATLAB) to a compiled language (C), prompting comments on the aspects of learning the new language that they found both easier and harder. Analysis of over 70,000 words written by 771 students revealed that the highest-performing students expressed more negative sentiments towards the language transition-a surprising result that we hypothesize is explained by their generally stronger metacognitive skills. We also report the most common difficulties described by students, which include challenges with syntax, error messages, and the process of compilation, and suggest teaching practices that might help students as they transition to a new programming language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSIGCSE 2022 - Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages948-954
Number of pages7
ISBN (Electronic)9781450390705
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 22 2022
Event53rd Annual ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, SIGCSE 2022 - Virtual, Online, United States
Duration: Mar 3 2022Mar 5 2022

Publication series

NameSIGCSE 2022 - Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education
Volume1

Conference

Conference53rd Annual ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, SIGCSE 2022
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityVirtual, Online
Period3/3/223/5/22

Keywords

  • language transition
  • metacognition
  • programming
  • sentiment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Education

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