A Study of Teaching and Learning in Computer Education: Designing an Introductory Programming Course to Foster Understanding, Problem Solving, Higher Order Thinking and Metacognition

Kirkwood, Margaret J (1998) A Study of Teaching and Learning in Computer Education: Designing an Introductory Programming Course to Foster Understanding, Problem Solving, Higher Order Thinking and Metacognition. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis describes the design, implementation and evaluation of a combined learning and research environment for fourteen to sixteen year olds who are learning computer programming at an introductory level as part of an examinable (Scottish Standard Grade) course. The learning environment is designed to foster understanding and the development of pupils' problem solving, higher order thinking and metacognitive skills. It provides an example of how thinking skills can be embedded in academic disciplines (Resnick, 1987) and of how strategies of learning can be acquired in a real context (Nisbet and Shucksmith, 1986). The teaching method is based upon the following elements: the gradual and systematic introduction of elementary programming concepts, principles and standard techniques; direct teaching on problem solving strategies; modelling of solution processes; on-going formative assessment; and developing metacognition through processes of reflection, articulation and exploration. The interplay between these aspects is analysed to gain a better understanding of how they operate together to promote learning and transfer. The learning resources were developed within a four-year curriculum development project, the University of Strathclyde and Lanark Division Programming Project, which forms an important part of the background to this research. The resources adopt a problem-based methodology and support pupils to work at their own pace. The research design places an in-depth focus on one class of twenty pupils (the case study class) from September 1993-March 1995 as they are learning to program. The sources of evidence are class records on progress and attainment, folders of work, assessment portfolios, pupil questionnaires and interviews, written reviews, and my informal observations and interactions with participants. Evidence on near transfer is sought through examining pupils' performances on computer problem solving using a spreadsheet, an authentic context. Quantitative and qualitative data analysis methods are combined to identify general trends and individual differences in learners across a range of dimensions. The findings indicate that the majority of pupils developed a sound knowledge base of programming concepts, principles and techniques which they were able to bring to bear on a range of problems. The problems required the integrated application of a wide range of higher order thinking skills and the application of a systematic solution strategy. Therefore it can be concluded that the method of teaching programming is sound. The majority of pupils could also reflect insightfully on problem solving processes within and beyond programming, and near transfer was demonstrated in all but a few cases. The learning environment enabled pupils to be very self-directed and to gain better insights into their own learning and thinking processes. Affective responses to learning to program and to the learning environment were generally very positive. However wide differences in progress rates emerged, and a few of the boys responded rather negatively to the course. There were several constraints such as time, the extent of the programming syllabus, and restrictions imposed by summative assessment requirements. The findings point towards the need for an integrated, cross-curricular strategy to develop learners' problem solving and thinking skills in order to foster transfer. However, overall, I conclude that subject teaching which is focused on developing deep understanding can be successfully combined with teaching directed towards developing generalizable aspects of problem solving, thinking and learning, and that much further work needs to be done in this area.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Hamish Paterson
Keywords: Educational technology, Science education, Curriculum development
Date of Award: 1998
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1998-75945
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Nov 2019 17:14
Last Modified: 19 Nov 2019 17:14
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/75945

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