Ma, L. and Ferguson, J. and Roper, M. and Wood, M. (2007) Improving the viability of mental models held by novice programmers. In: Eleventh Workshop on Pedagogies and Tools for the Teaching and Learning of Object Oriented Concepts. ECOOP Workshops 2007, 2007-07-01. (Unpublished)
Recent research has found that many novice programmers often hold non-viable mental models of basic programming concepts such as assignment and object reference. This paper proposes a constructivist-based teaching model, integrating a cognitive conflict strategy with program visualization, with the aim of improving novice programmers’ mental models. The results of a preliminary empirical study suggest that, for the relatively straightforward concept of assignment, tight integration of program visualization with a cognitive conflict event that highlights a student’s inappropriate understanding can help improve students’ non-viable mental models. 14 out of 18 participants who held non-viable mental models of the assignment process successfully changed their model to be viable as a result of the proposed teaching model.
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