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THREE-YEAR PRACTICE AND EVALUATION OF INTRODUCTORY PROGRAMMING EDUCATION

J. Shinkai, Y. Hayase

National Institute of Technology, Toyama College (JAPAN)
The purpose of programming education is to develop students’ problem solving skills in constructing algorithm and their expressing skills in using programming language. However, in the early stage of programming education, many students felt programming difficult and they looked confused. Not a few students lost their motivation to learn further. The authors considered that students’ demotivation resulted from the differences between processing expressions in giving instructions to a person and those in running a program on a computer.

Therefore, the authors planned introductory programming education and offered students four experiences. The four experiences are detailed as the following: the first experience is to make students think in the position of developing information processing system, the second experience is to make them notice that one problem solving method is not only one method, the third experience is to make them write their procedure manuals in clear and precise Japanese, and the fourth experience is to make them express programming language, execute it on a computer, and check the results of their execution. In the fourth experience of making programming, the authors did not teach programming language grammar to students, but got them only to write programming language, referring to sample programming.

C programming class is conducted for second-grade students in the Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering at A Technical College. These students are 16 or 17 years old, the same age as second-year high school students. Therefore, introductory programming education was conducted for first-grade students prior to C programming class. Five lessons were conducted as a part of introductory programming education. Each lesson took 90 min long. In the third year of introductory programming education, different exercises were assigned to students. For example, the first exercise was to find out a lightweight imitational coin among eight coins. The second exercise was to answer by hand calculation to the third decimal place of a fraction whose denominator is a single-digit positive integer and whose numerator is one. The third exercise was to find out the sum of two-digit positive integers.

The authors carried out a questionnaire survey to evaluate introductory programming education after finishing five lessons. The results of three-year questionnaire surveys found out, based on students’ subjective judgments, that they thought introductory programming education was interesting and that they realized they should clearly write their procedure manuals without leaving any ambiguities. Furthermore, the results showed that students understood how to construct procedures by combining control structure such as sequential structure, branch structure and loop structure. Students’ test scores of the second-year C programming class in the early stage were compared with those of students who did not take introductory programming education. The result of its comparison was that the scores of students who experienced introductory programming education were higher than those of non-experienced students. These results proved that the introductory programming education for writing a procedure manual worked as a good introductory education to develop problem solving skills in constructing algorithm in programming.