The affordances and constraints of diagrams on students' reasoning about state machines

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

Abstract

While the concept of state is foundational to computing, students possess a myriad of misconceptions about it and the role it plays within computing systems. Research on students' misconceptions reveals that their ability to use conceptually appropriate information varies based on the task they are performing and the representational tools they are provided. Critically, the tacit information in these representations influences this process, hindering or helping students. In this paper, we present a qualitative research study, in which we interviewed 24 students as they transformed finite state machines into synchronous, sequential logic circuits. We found that students generally had profound skill with procedures. However, their ability to reason about the four components of state, next-state, inputs, and outputs, were constrained by the representations that they were given or created themselves. Conversely, the order in which students produced their drawings provided complementary insights into students conceptual understanding. These findings revealed that students possess conceptions of computers as input-output systems rather than state-based systems. We suggest potential interventions and future research based on these findings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICER 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages173-181
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450349680
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 14 2017
Event13th ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, ICER 2017 - Tacoma, United States
Duration: Aug 18 2017Aug 20 2017

Publication series

NameICER 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research

Other

Other13th ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, ICER 2017
CountryUnited States
CityTacoma
Period8/18/178/20/17

Keywords

  • Diagrams
  • Finite state machines
  • Misconceptions
  • State
  • Visual representations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Software
  • Education

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  • Cite this

    Herman, G. L., & Choi, D. S. (2017). The affordances and constraints of diagrams on students' reasoning about state machines. In ICER 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research (pp. 173-181). (ICER 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research). Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1145/3105726.3106172