PPIG 2003 - 15th Annual Workshop
First Results of An Experiment on Using Roles of Variables in Teaching
Marja Kuittinen, Jorma Sajaniemi
Abstract: Roles of variables is a new concept that captures tacit expert knowledge in a form that can, e.g. be taught in introductory programming courses. A role describes some stereotypic use of variables, and only ten roles are needed to cover 99 % of all variables in novice-level programs.
This paper presents the first results of an experiment where roles were introduced to novices learning Pascal programming. Students were divided into three groups that were instructed differently: in the traditional way with no treatment of roles; using roles throughout the course; and using a role-based program animator in addition to using roles in teaching. The results suggest that the introduction of roles improves program comprehension and program writing skills. Moreover, the use of the animator affects the way students describe programs: they stress data-related issues concerning the deep structure of a program, as opposed to directly visible operations and control structures.