Learning to Code: Effects of Programming Modality in a Game-based Learning Environment

Nirmaliz Colón-Acosta
2019
As new introductory block-based coding applications for young students to learn basic computer science concepts, such as, loops and conditionals, continue to increase in popularity, it is necessary to consider the best method of teaching students these skills. Many of these products continue to exhibit programmatic misconceptions of these concepts and many students struggle with how to apply what they learn to a text-based format due to the difficulties with learning the syntactic structure not
more » ... actic structure not present in block-based programming languages. If the goal of teaching young students how to program is meant to develop a set of skills they may apply when learning more complex programming languages, then discerning how they are introduced to those practices is imperative. However, few studies have examined how the specific modality in which students are taught to program effects how they learn and what skills they develop. More specifically, research has yet to effectively investigate modality in the context of an educational coding game where the modality feature is controlled, and content is consistent throughout game-play. This is mainly due to the lack of available games with this feature designed into the application. This dissertation explores whether programming modality effects how well students can learn and transfer computer science concepts and practices from an educational programming game. I proposed that by being guided from a blocks-based to text-based programming language would instill a deeper understanding of basic computer science concepts and would support learning and improve transfer and performance on new challenging tasks. Two experimental studies facilitated game-play sessions on the developed application for this project. The first study was a 2x2 between subjects design comparing educational module (game versus basic) and programming modality (guided versus free choice). The findings from Study 1 informed the final version design for the module used in the second study where only the game modul [...]
doi:10.7916/d8-y3wf-t884 fatcat:z2x7tkjglfaxlg6avmzdkki554