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A web-based learning model for improving programming students' mental models

Ma, L. and Ferguson, J. D. and Roper, M. and Ross, I. and Wood, M. (2008) A web-based learning model for improving programming students' mental models. In: Proceedings of the 9th annual conference of the subject centre for information and computer sciences. HE Academy, pp. 88-94. ISBN 9780955967603

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Abstract

Recent research has found that many programming students often hold non-viable mental models of basic programming concepts such as assignment and object reference. To improve those students’ mental models, a constructivist-based learning model, integrating a cognitive conflict strategy with program visualisation, was proposed by the authors. In addition, a web-based learning environment has been developed to offer a practical tool for instructors and students to use the proposed learning model for teaching and learning. This paper describes this learning environment and also presents a preliminary study that was conducted to investigate the performance of this learning environment. The results of this study reveal that the learning environment is effective in helping students construct viable mental models of a relative simple concept, namely value assignment. The current aim of this work is to extend the environment to cover a number of key programming concepts and to make it available to fellow researchers and instructors for further investigation in their own teaching contexts.