ERIC Number: EJ1042506
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2014
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 29
ISSN: ISSN-0899 3408
Metonymy and Reference-Point Errors in Novice Programming
Miller, Craig S.
Computer Science Education, v24 n2-3 p123-152 2014
When learning to program, students often mistakenly refer to an element that is structurally related to the element that they intend to reference. For example, they may indicate the attribute of an object when their intention is to reference the whole object. This paper examines these reference-point errors through the context of metonymy. Metonymy is a rhetorical device where the speaker states a referent that is structurally related to the intended referent. For example, the following sentence states an office bureau but actually refers to a person working at the bureau: "The tourist asked the travel bureau for directions to the museum." Drawing upon previous studies, I discuss how student reference errors may be consistent with the use of metonymy. In particular, I hypothesize that students are more likely to reference an identifying element even when a structurally related element is intended. I then present two experiments, which produce results consistent with this analysis. In both experiments, students are more likely to produce reference-point errors that involve identifying attributes than descriptive attributes. Given these results, I explore the possibility that students are relying on habits of communication rather than the mechanistic principles needed for successful programming. Finally I discuss teaching interventions using live examples and how metonymy may be presented to non-computing students as pedagogy for computational thinking.
Descriptors: Computer Science Education, Programming, Novices, Figurative Language, Rhetoric, Misconceptions, Prediction, Error Analysis (Language)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A