Exploring the Applicability of Simple Syntax Writing Practice for Learning Programming

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Leinonen , A , Nygren , H , Pirttinen , N , Hellas , A & Leinonen , J 2019 , Exploring the Applicability of Simple Syntax Writing Practice for Learning Programming . in Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education . ACM , New York , pp. 84-90 , The 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE 2019) , Minneapolis , United States , 27/02/2019 . https://doi.org/10.1145/3287324.3287378

Title: Exploring the Applicability of Simple Syntax Writing Practice for Learning Programming
Author: Leinonen, Antti; Nygren, Henrik; Pirttinen, Nea; Hellas, Arto; Leinonen, Juho
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science
University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science
University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science
University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science
University of Helsinki, Department of Computer Science
Publisher: ACM
Date: 2019-02-22
Language: eng
Number of pages: 7
Belongs to series: Proceedings of the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education
ISBN: 978-1-4503-5890-3
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10138/315983
Abstract: When learning programming, students learn the syntax of a programming language, the semantics underlying the syntax, and practice applying the language in solving programming problems. Research has suggested that simply the syntax may be hard to learn. In this article, we study difficulty of learning the syntax of a programming language. We have constructed a tool that provides students code that they write character-by-character. When writing, the tool automatically highlights each character in code that is incorrectly typed, and through the highlight-based feedback directs students into writing correct syntax. We conducted a randomized controlled trial in an introductory programming course organized in Java. One half of the population had the tool in the course material immediately before programming exercises where the practiced syntax was used, while the other half of the course population did not have the tool, thus approaching the exercises in a traditional way. Our results imply that isolated syntax writing practice may not be a meaningful addition to the arsenal used for teaching programming, at least when the programming course utilizes a large set of small programming exercises. We encourage researchers to replicate our work in contexts where syntax seems to be an issue.
Subject: 113 Computer and information sciences
516 Educational sciences
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