Using Tracing and Sketching to Solve Programming Problems: Replicating and Extending an Analysis of What Students Draw

Kathryn Cunningham, Sarah Blanchard, Barbara Ericson, Mark Guzdial

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

Abstract

Sketching out a code trace is a cognitive assistance for programmers, student and professional. Previous research (Lister et al. 2004) showed that students who sketch a trace on paper had greater success on code 'reading' problems involving loops, arrays, and conditionals. We replicated this finding, and developed further categories of student sketching strategies. Our results support previous findings that students who don't sketch on code reading problems have a lower success rate than students who do sketch. We found that students who sketch incomplete traces also have a low success rate, similar to students who don't sketch at all. We categorized sketching strategies on new problem types (code writing, code ordering, and code fixing) and find that different types of sketching are used on these problems, not always with increased success. We ground our results in a theory of sketching as a method for distributing cognition and as a demonstration of the process of the notional machine.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICER 2017 - Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages164-172
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450349680
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes
Event13th ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, ICER 2017 - Tacoma, United States
Duration: Aug 18 2017Aug 20 2017

Other

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

Keywords

  • CS1
  • Distributed cognition
  • Notional machine
  • Novice programmers
  • Sketching
  • Tracing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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