An Active Learning Strategy for Programming Courses
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The objective of this research is to employ a simple active learning strategy in conjunction with the principles of cognitive psychology to enhance student learning in an undergraduate programming course. The investigation was done for a first-year course in C++. The course was taught over a period of 13 weeks during which the instructor meets with the students for 4 h every week. Specifically, quantitative investigations were made in which the course was taught using the intervention- and reinforcement-based active learning method to a group of approximately 120 students. The two key components of these strategies include: (a) hands-on programming while teaching the concepts and (b) group debugging exercises. In the former, the students were taught concepts via collective coding exercises in the classroom as a part of active learning strategy. Additionally, to periodically recall and reinforce concepts, the following were done: (1) each new class begins with a group debugging exercise where the students collectively participate in debugging or constructing a program, requiring them to recall earlier concepts. (2) Weekly programming labs and assignments are assigned that the students must complete for a certain grade. The student learning is measured via assessments through two term tests and a comprehensive final exam. From these assessments, it has been found that the active learning strategy has benefitted the students in terms of their learning. Further, this is attributed to the effective reinforcement of the concepts as well as the intervention strategy employed in the classroom. The former was achieved via (a) practice, teaching/learning/communications with their peers inside the classroom and the latter via compulsory labs and assignments that the students undertook outside the classroom.
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