Investigating Students' Preexisting Debugging Traits: A Real World Escape Room Study
by Michaeli, Tilman and Romeike, Ralf
Abstract:
Being able to find and fix errors is an essential skill in computer programming. Nevertheless, debugging poses a major hurdle in the K12 classroom, as students are often rather helpless and rely on the teacher hurrying from one student-PC to the other. Overall, there is a lack of respective concepts and materials for the classroom as well as research on how to teach debugging. According to the constructivist learning theory, teaching and developing concepts and materials for the classroom must take learners’ preexisting experience into account to be effective. In their daily lives, students are confronted with errors long before they build programming experience: Whether there is a problem with the internet or with their bicycle, they are troubleshooting and locating and fixing errors. Debugging is a special case of general troubleshooting and shares common characteristics, such as the overall process or particular strategies. Thus, the aim of this study is to investigate students' preexisting debugging traits. To this end, we developed a real-world escape room consisting of debugging-related troubleshooting exercises. This allows us to observe students' troubleshooting process, strategies, and overall behavior in a natural environment. Building upon this, we employed the escape room approach with around 150 high school students and analyzed the resulting video data. Based on the data we identify preexisting debugging traits such as students struggling to generate hypotheses or to undo changes. Furthermore, they are not able to effectively test a system and struggle with cognitive load in topographic search. Therefore, our study firstly contributes to understanding and explaining the behavior of novice debuggers. The second contribution is an innovative methodology to analyze preexisting debugging traits. Thus, our results represent the basis for developing concepts and materials on teaching debugging for the classroom.
Reference:
Michaeli, Tilman and Romeike, Ralf: Investigating Students' Preexisting Debugging Traits: A Real World Escape Room Study, In: Proceedings of the 19th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research, ACM, 2020.
Bibtex Code:
@inproceedings{michaeli20c,
 abstract = {Being able to find and fix errors is an essential skill in computer programming. Nevertheless, debugging poses a major hurdle in the K12 classroom, as students are often rather helpless and rely on the teacher hurrying from one student-PC to the other. Overall, there is a lack of respective concepts and materials for the classroom as well as research on how to teach debugging. According to the constructivist learning theory, teaching and developing concepts and materials for the classroom must take learners’ preexisting experience into account to be effective. In their daily lives, students are confronted with errors long before they build programming experience: Whether there is a problem with the internet or with their bicycle, they are troubleshooting and locating and fixing errors. Debugging is a special case of general troubleshooting and shares common characteristics, such as the overall process or particular strategies. Thus, the aim of this study is to investigate students' preexisting debugging traits. To this end, we developed a real-world escape room consisting of debugging-related troubleshooting exercises. This allows us to observe students' troubleshooting process, strategies, and overall behavior in a natural environment. Building upon this, we employed the escape room approach with around 150 high school students and analyzed the resulting video data. Based on the data we identify preexisting debugging traits such as students struggling to generate hypotheses or to undo changes. Furthermore, they are not able to effectively test a system and struggle with cognitive load in topographic search. Therefore, our study firstly contributes to understanding and explaining the behavior of novice debuggers. The second contribution is an innovative methodology to analyze preexisting debugging traits. Thus, our results represent the basis for developing concepts and materials on teaching debugging for the classroom. <br},
 address = {New York, USA},
 author = {Michaeli, Tilman and Romeike, Ralf},
 booktitle = {Proceedings of the 19th Koli Calling International Conference on Computing Education Research},
 date = {2020-11-19/2020-11-22},
 faupublication = {yes},
 keywords = {debugging, escape room, computational thinking, troubleshooting, computer science education, K12},
 peerreviewed = {Yes},
 publisher = {ACM},
 title = {{Investigating} {Students}' {Preexisting} {Debugging} {Traits}: {A} {Real} {World} {Escape} {Room} {Study}},
 venue = {Koli, Finland},
 year = {2020}
}

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