Improving the mental models held by novice programmers using cognitive conflict and jeliot visualisations

Ma, L. and Ferguson, J. D. and Roper, M. and Ross, I. and Wood, M.; Brézillon, Patrick and Russell, Ingrid and Labat, Jean-Marc, eds. (2009) Improving the mental models held by novice programmers using cognitive conflict and jeliot visualisations. In: ITICSE 2009. ACM, New York, pp. 166-170. ISBN 978-1-60558-381-5

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Abstract

Recent research has found that many novice programmers often hold non-viable mental models of basic programming concepts which can limit their potential to develop appropriate programming skills. Previous work by the authors suggests that a teaching model that integrates cognitive conflict and program visualisation can help novices formulate appropriate mental models. This paper first outlines a 'concepts roadmap' that provides an ordered approach to learning programming concepts allowing students to build on fundamental base knowledge. It then reports the results of a series of studies investigating the use of the Jeliot visualisation tool as the visualisation component of the proposed learning model when applied to these concepts. The findings include: the ease with which Jeliot can be tailored to visualise a range of concepts using a variety of examples; the Jeliot visualisation of object reference was too complex for CS1 students; further evidence that CS1 students struggle to develop appropriate understanding of a range of key programming concepts; and, further evidence that an integrated cognitive conflict/visualisation strategy can help students develop an appropriate understanding of key programming concepts.