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Title: An in-depth study of the cognitive behaviour of novice programmers
Author: Kahney, Joseph Henry
ISNI:       0000 0001 3593 9024
Awarding Body: Open University
Current Institution: Open University
Date of Award: 1982
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This Thesis reports a series of studies of the behaviour of novice computer programmers. One hundred and thirty nine programs which had been designed as solutions to a particular programming problem were analyzed, and it is shown that, despite great surface variety, the programs exhibit considerable underlying order. Concept Sorting and Recall tasks were used to induce the novices' mental organizations of programming knowledge. A program Questionnaire was designed which presented Subjects with alternative possible programmed solutions to a particular problem. The novices' mental models of the behaviour of recursive procedures were determined from their selections, and from the protocols they provided on the predicted behaviour of the different programs. In order to determine the structure perceived by novices when they were presented with unfamiliar programs, a transcription task was designed. The role of: A) real world knowledge, and, B) programming knowledge in problem understanding processes was investigated, and an 'interactionist' theory of problem solving in computer programming put forward. The pattern of problem solving processes predicted by the theory was formalized in an Interpretation Theory for scoring verbal protocols. The theory was tested by presenting novices with a problem statement containing some statements which were designed to activate real world knowledge, and others that were designed to activate programming knowledge. The anlaysis of protocols given by two novices is provided, and, finally, production system models of some aspects of their program writing behaviour are provided.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Psychology