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Concrete examples of abstraction as manifested in students’ transformative experiences
University of Gävle, Department of Mathematics, Natural and Computer Sciences, Ämnesavdelningen för datavetenskap.
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2008 (English)In: ICER '08: proceedings of the fourth international workshop on Computing education research, New York: ACM , 2008, 125-136 p.Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper examines transformational learning experiences of computing students as a way to better understand threshold concepts in computing. From empirical evidence we found that students often describe transformative experiences as learning situations in which they were led to use various kinds of abstraction, for example modularity, data abstraction, inheritance, polymorphism, reuse, design patterns, and complexity. Some students describe an abstract concept as coming first, and then needing to be made concrete though application; others describe transformations in which they learn the advantages of these abstract concepts from their experience of not using them.

Abstraction is certainly of central importance in computer science. It appears, however, from our students’ descriptions of transformative experiences, that abstraction per se is not a threshold, but that particular concepts in which abstraction is paramount exhibit the characteristics of threshold concepts.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: ACM , 2008. 125-136 p.
Keyword [en]
Threshold Concepts, learning theory, transformation, abstraction
National Category
Computer Science Didactics
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-2199DOI: doi:http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1404520.1404533ISBN: 978-1-60558-216-0 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:hig-2199DiVA: diva2:118861
Available from: 2008-09-24 Created: 2008-09-24 Last updated: 2011-09-29Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. On the Road to a Software Profession: Students' Experiences of Concepts and Thresholds
Open this publication in new window or tab >>On the Road to a Software Profession: Students' Experiences of Concepts and Thresholds
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Research has shown that there are gaps in knowledge between newly hired and experienced professionals and that some of these gaps are related to concepts, such as the concepts of object orientation. This problem, and the fact that most computer science majors want to work in the software industry, leads to questions regarding why these gaps exist and how students can be better prepared for their future careers. Against this background, this thesis addresses two theme-based perspectives that focus on students' views of concepts in Computer Science.

The first theme-based perspective investigated the existence of potential Threshold Concepts in Computer Science. Such concepts should be troublesome, transformative, irreversible, and integrative. Qualitative methods have been mainly used and empirical data have been collected through semi-structured interviews, concept maps, and written stories. The results identified two Threshold Concepts, suggested several more, and then described the ways in which these concepts have transformed students.

The second theme-based perspective took a phenomenographic approach to find the variation in how students understand concepts related to the software profession. Data were collected via semi-structured interviews. In one study the interviews were held in connection with role-playing where students took on the role of a newly hired programmer. The results show a variety of ways to experience the addressed phenomena in the student collective, ranging from superficial views that often have a practical nature to more sophisticated understandings that reflect a holistic approach, including a professional point of view.

Educators can use the results to emphasize concepts that are important from students' perspectives. The phenomenographic outcome spaces can help teachers to reflect upon their own ways of seeing contrasted with student conceptions. I have indicated how variation theory can be applied to open more sophisticated ways of seeing, which in this context stresses the professional aspects to help students prepare for becoming professional software developers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2010. 61 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 734
Keyword
Biographies, class diagram, computer science education, computer science education research, computing concepts, concept map, content analysis, higher education, java interface, learning, object orientation, phenomenography, programming, role-play, software development, software profession, threshold concepts, variation theory
National Category
Computer Science Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:hig:diva-10531 (URN)978-91-554-7789-9 (ISBN)
Public defence
2010-06-04, Room 2446, Polacksbacken, Lägerhyddsvägen 2D, Uppsala, Uppsala, 13:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
1) Forskningsämne: Datavetenskap med inriktning mot datavetenskapens didaktik 2) Boustedts forskning skedde vid Uppsala universitet, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Matematisk-datavetenskapliga sektionen, Institutionen för informationsteknologi, Avdelningen för teknisk databehandling) (Uppsala universitet, Teknisk-naturvetenskapliga vetenskapsområdet, Matematisk-datavetenskapliga sektionen, Institutionen för informationsteknologi, Numerisk analysAvailable from: 2011-09-29 Created: 2011-09-29 Last updated: 2011-09-29Bibliographically approved

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