Using commutative assessments to compare conceptual understanding in blocks-based and text-based programs

David Weintrop, Uri Wilensky

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

95 Scopus citations

Abstract

Blocks-based programming environments are becoming increasingly common in introductory programming courses, but to date, little comparative work has been done to understand if and how this approach affects students' emerging understanding of fundamental programming concepts. In an effort to understand how tools like Scratch and Blockly differ from more conventional text-based introductory programming languages with respect to conceptual understanding, we developed a set of "commutative" assessments. Each multiple-choice question on the assessment includes a short program that can be displayed in either a blocks-based or text-based form. The set of potential answers for each question includes the correct answer along with choices informed by prior research on novice programming misconceptions. In this paper we introduce the Commutative Assessment, discuss the theoretical and practical motivations for the assessment, and present findings from a study that used the assessment. The study had 90 high school students take the assessment at three points over the course of the first ten weeks of an introduction to programming course, alternating the modality (blocks vs. text) for each question over the course of the three administrations of the assessment. Our analysis reveals differences on performance between blocks-based and text-based questions as well as differences in the frequency of misconceptions based on the modality. Future work, potential implications, and limitations of these findings are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICER 2015 - Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages101-110
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9781450336284
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 9 2015
Event11th Annual ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, ICER 2015 - Omaha, United States
Duration: Aug 9 2015Aug 13 2015

Publication series

NameICER 2015 - Proceedings of the 2015 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research

Other

Other11th Annual ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, ICER 2015
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityOmaha
Period8/9/158/13/15

Keywords

  • Assessment
  • Blocks-based programming
  • High school computer science education
  • Introductory programming environments

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science(all)
  • Education

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