Looking at the main method – an educator’s perspective

Teresa Busjahn, Simon, James Paterson

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


There have been a number of studies on gaze tracking in programming, examining how people read program code when tasked with understanding it, but the implications for programming education are not always entirely clear. We tracked the gaze of both novices and experts while they were reading small Java programs, and subsequently interviewed some of the participants about that task. While experts typically said that they start by looking for the program’s entry point, novices appeared not to follow such a purposeful approach. Subsequent analysis of the gaze data confirms this effect. Experts attend to the main method early on when reading a program without looking at much else beforehand. They also read main more comprehensively than the rest of the program. Novices, on the other hand, arrive at main much later and only after having already read much of the code above main, which was located at the end of the code. We conclude that there is potential benefit in explicitly guiding novices in the art of reading code and the importance of attending to main as they do so – teaching them how to read as an aspect of teaching them how to write.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 21st Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research, Koli Calling 2021
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450384889
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2021
EventKoli Calling '21: 21st Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research - Online
Duration: 18 Nov 202121 Nov 2021


ConferenceKoli Calling '21: 21st Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research
Abbreviated titleKoli Calling '21
Internet address


  • code reading
  • eye tracking
  • main method
  • novice-expert

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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