A Classification of Students’ Cognitive Abilities with Errors in Computer Programming

By R. Naidoo and Sanjay Ranjeeth.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Computer Programming forms the basis from which most students in the IS/IT discipline launch themselves into further endeavors in the discipline. However, statistical analysis of students’ performances in programming related assessments tasks reveals that the mastery of computer programming skills is not easily acquired. This assertion is supported by reports of high failure rates in programming courses at several academic institutes. This trend is also confirmed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) where programming related assessments have resulted in failure rates as high as 50%. In order to address this situation, this study investigates the relationship between the cognitive ability of students and the types of errors made in a programming examination. A standard test was used to classify students according to cognitive ability. The classification is based on the Piagetian framework for cognitive development. A qualitative theoretical framework for error analysis, developed by Naidoo (1996), is used to classify errors made by students in a programming examination. The results do not show a discernable difference in the frequency of errors made by students in the different cognitive groups. However, there is significance about the types of errors made by the different cognitive groupings.

Keywords: Computer, Programming, Errors, Cognition

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 7, pp.23-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 863.410KB).

Dr. R. Naidoo

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built-in environment, Durban University of Technology, Durban, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa

I am a lecturer in mathematics. I am a Phd in mathematics and an MPhil in mathematics education. Researcher in the fields of mathematics (such as computational mathematics) and in mathematics education (such as teaching and learning mathematics in higher education). Papers have been published in numerical mathematics and teaching and learning of differential calculus.

Sanjay Ranjeeth

Lecturer, Computer Science, University of KwaZuluNatal, Pietermaritzberg, KwaZuluNatal, South Africa

I have completed my masters degree in computer science. My research interest is in the teaching and learning of computer science and software development.

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