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ERIC Number: EJ895875
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010
Pages: 25
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 53
ISSN: ISSN-1547-9714
The Fear Factor: How It Affects Students Learning to Program in a Tertiary Environment
Rogerson, Christine; Scott, Elsje
Journal of Information Technology Education, v9 p147-171 2010
This paper examines how students' experiences of learning to program are affected by feelings of fear, using a phenomenological approach to elicit rich descriptions of personal experiences from the narratives of final year undergraduate students. In the course of reviewing current work concerning learning or teaching programming, certain focal areas of research emerged. This paper attempted to group these into three main topics. These are the predictors of student success in learning programming, the barriers to learning programming. and the teaching tools or learning methodologies which could assist with learning programming. The review was conducted with particular emphasis on phenomenological research in this field. Cockburn's concepts of skills acquisition and Dreyfus' levels of adult learning are discussed and are used as a theoretical lens to examine the growth of the students. Learning to program or code forms part of the core courses taught by the Information Systems (IS) department at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Assuming one of the goals of education is to prepare students for the working world, a strong practical component is required. Although programming skills are less central to the IS curriculum than to that of computer science, a number of IS graduates become business analysts or project managers and are required to communicate with team members and, at the very least, to have a good understanding of programming issues. To address this need, the IS department at UCT designed a curriculum that introduces students to problem-solving, coding, and testing issues through an action learning cycle and that culminates in third year by requiring students to initialize an IS project from conception to readiness to implement. It is from this background that the students for this study were selected. This paper approached the research from an interpretative stance, and, as the main aim was to describe students' life experiences and discover the essence and meaning of programming from their perspective, a phenomenological methodology appeared to be ideally suited. From the analysis, six themes were uncovered. These themes are the apprehension or fear associated with programming, the resulting negative perceptions, the nature of programming that gives rise to these feelings, the internal factors influencing these feelings, the external factors influencing these feelings, and finally how these feelings have affected the students' growth or skills acquisition. A model is proposed that illustrates the relationship between the six themes, guides the analysis, and helps to makes sense of the implications. This paper offers an insight into the difficulties experienced by students learning to program, and should be of interest to educationalists, particularly those in the programming environment, who seek to understand the problems faced by students in order to provide more effective support through their teaching approach and student interactions. (Contains 2 figures.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: Teachers
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: South Africa