Tue 8 Aug 2023 09:25 - 09:50 - Code Comprehension

Background: Code comprehension research has identified gaps in the strategies experts and novices use in comprehending code. In computer science (CS) education, code comprehension has recently received increased attention, and research has identified correlations between code comprehension and code writing. While there is a long history of identifying expert code-comprehension strategies, there has been less work to understand and support the incremental development of code comprehension expertise.

Purpose: The goal of the paper is to identify potential code-comprehension strategies that we could teach students.

Methods: In this paper, we analyze and present examples from a novice programmer engaged in a code comprehension task.

Findings: We identified five code-comprehension strategies that overlap with previously identified, expert code-comprehension strategies. While an expert would use these strategies to produce correct inferences in their process of code comprehension, we primarily examine a novice’s unsuccessful attempts to comprehend code using these strategies.

Implications: Our case study provides an existence proof that shows that these five strategies can be used by a novice. This is essential for identifying potential strategies to teach novices. Our primary empirical contribution is identifying potential building blocks for developing code-comprehension expertise. Our primary theoretical contribution is proposing to build code comprehension pedagogy on specific expert strategies that we show are usable by a novice. More broadly, we hope to encourage CS education researchers to focus on understanding the complex processes of learning.

Colleen Lewis is an Associate Professor of computer science at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Lewis previously taught at Harvey Mudd College for eight years where she was the McGregor-Girand Associate Professor of computer science. At UC Berkeley, Lewis completed a PhD in science and mathematics education, an MS in computer science, and a BS in electrical engineering and computer science. Her research seeks to identify effective teaching practices for creating equitable learning spaces where all students have the opportunity to learn. Lewis curates CSTeachingTips.org, a NSF-sponsored project for disseminating effective computer science teaching practices. Lewis has received the NSF CAREER Award, the NCWIT.org Undergraduate Mentoring Award, and the AnitaB.org Emerging Leader Award for her efforts to broaden participation in computing.

Tue 8 Aug

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09:00 - 10:15
Code ComprehensionResearch Papers

Session Chair: Sally Fincher

The search for meaning: Inferential Strategic Reading Comprehension in Programming
Research Papers
Maria Kallia University of Glasgow
Examples of Unsuccessful Use of Code Comprehension Strategies: A Resource for Developing Code Comprehension Pedagogy
Research Papers
Colleen M. Lewis University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Chronicles of Exploration: Examining the Materiality of Computational Artifacts
Research Papers
Michael J. Johnson Georgia Institute of Technology, Francisco Castro New York University, Betsy Disalvo Georgia Institute of Technology, Kayla DesPortes New York University