A meta-analysis of pedagogical tools used in introductory programming courses

Frances P Trees, Pace University


Programming is recognized as being challenging for teachers to teach and difficult for students to learn. For decades, computer science educators have looked at innovative approaches by creating pedagogical software tools that attempt to facilitate both the teaching of and the learning of programming. This dissertation investigates the motivations for the integration of pedagogical tools in introductory programming courses and the characteristics that are perceived to contribute to the effectiveness of these tools. The study employs three research stages that examine the tool characteristics and their use. The first stage surveys teachers who use pedagogical tools in an introductory programming course. The second interviews teachers to explore the survey results in more detail and to add greater depth into the choice and use of pedagogical tools in the introductory programming class. The third interviews tool developers to provide an explanatory insight of the tool and the motivation for its creation. The results indicate that the pedagogical tools perceived to be effective share common characteristics: They provide an environment that is manageable, flexible and visual; they provide for active engagement in learning activities and support programming in small pieces; they allow for an easy transition to subsequent courses and more robust environments; they provide technical support and resource materials. The results of this study also indicate that recommendations from other computer science educators have a strong impact on a teacher’s initial tool choice for an introductory programming course. This study informs present and future tool developers of the characteristics that the teachers perceive to contribute to the effectiveness of a pedagogical tool and how to present their tools to encourage a more efficient and more effective widespread adoption of the tool into the teacher’s curriculum. The teachers involved in this study are actively involved in the computer science education community. The results of this study, based on the perceptions of these computer science educators, provide guidance to those educators choosing to introduce a new pedagogical tool into their programming course.

Subject Area

Science education|Computer science

Recommended Citation

Trees, Frances P, "A meta-analysis of pedagogical tools used in introductory programming courses" (2010). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI3407417.



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