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AN INVESTIGATION INTO THE TEACHING OF THRESHOLD CONCEPTS IN AN INTRODUCTORY PROGRAMMING COURSE

H. Thinyane

Rhodes University (SOUTH AFRICA)
The study of threshold concepts is a growing area of research. This paper presents an investigation into teaching an introductory programming course to non-science majors in a first year university course in South Africa. This paper begins by identifying threshold concepts that were determined as troublesome knowledge for first year students: decomposition of a problem into an algorithm; conversion of algorithm into flow chart; introduction to variables; introduction to program flow. It then discusses techniques that were used in class to address these concepts in an intuitive and non threatening way, to help with student learning. In particular, the paper describes the use of Lego Wedo and Scratch programming environment to provide a non-threatening introduction to these programming concepts. The paper presents a discussion of the techniques used as well as the results of an evaluation of the course.