A fresh look at novice programmers' performance and their teachers' expectations

Ian Utting, Alison Elliott Tew, Mike McCracken, Lynda Thomas, Dennis Bouvier, Roger Frye, James Paterson, Michael Caspersen, Yfat Ben-David Kolikant , Juha Sorva, Tadeusz Wilusz

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

    37 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper describes the results of an ITiCSE working group convened in 2013 to review and revisit the influential ITiCSE 2001 McCracken working group that reported [18] on novice programmers' ability to solve a specified programming problem. Like that study, the one described here asked students to implement a simple program. Unlike the original study, students' in this study were given significant scaffolding for their efforts, including a test harness. Their knowledge of programming concepts was also assessed via a standard language-neutral survey.

    One of the significant findings of the original working group was that students were less successful at the programming task than their teachers expected, so in this study teachers' expectations were explicitly gathered and matched with students' performance. This study found a significant correlation between students' performance in the practical task and the survey, and a significant effect on performance in the practical task attributable to the use of the test harness. The study also found a much better correlation between teachers' expectations of their students' performance than in the 2001 working group.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationITiCSE -WGR '13 Proceedings of the ITiCSE Working Group Reports Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education-Working Group Reports
    PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
    Number of pages18
    ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-2665-0
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2013


    • computer programming
    • programming
    • student learning
    • problem solving

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Computer Science (miscellaneous)


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