Dual-Modality Instruction and Learning: A Case Study in CS1


Blanchard, J., Gardner-McCune, C., and Anthony, L. 2020. Dual-Modality Instruction and Learning: A Case Study in CS1. Proceedings of the ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE’2020), Portland, Oregon, USA, March 11-14, 818-824. [PDF(Research Track, 2nd Best Paper)


“In college-level introductory computer science courses, students traditionally learn to program using text-based languages which are common in industry and research. This approach means that learners must concurrently master both syntax and semantics. Blocks-based programming environments have become commonplace in introductory computing courses in K-12 schools and some colleges in part to simplify syntax challenges. However, there is evidence that students may face difficulty moving to text-based programming environments when starting with blocks-based environments. Bi-directional dual-modality programming environments provide multiple representations of programming language constructs (in both blocks and text) and allow students to transition between them freely. Prior work has shown that some students who use dual-modality environments to transition from blocks to text have more positive views of text programming compared to students who move directly from blocks to text languages, but it is not yet known if there is any impact on learning. To investigate the impact on learning, we conducted a study at a large public university across two semesters in a CS1 course (N=673). We found that students performed better on typical course exams when they were taught using dual-modality representations in lecture and were provided dual-modality tools. The results of our work support the conclusion that dual-modality instruction can help students learn computational concepts in early college computer science coursework.”

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