Two insights on teaching computer programming

David Klappholz d.klappholz at
Fri Jan 6 20:43:37 EST 2006

At 03:50 PM 1/6/2006, Kathi Fisler wrote:
>David Klappholz wrote:
> > PS Do you have any thoughts on possible connections between HtDP and
> > female retention?
>We have anecdotal evidence that HtDP helps engage and retain female
>students.  ... Only one high school teacher that I know
>of had the resources to run parallel courses in the same year for
>comparison. one C++ and one HtDP.

Controlled experiments aren't the only way to get meaningful 
quantitative data on an issue like this. (See more below.)

>   1. teaching Scheme has a leveling effect between experienced and
>   novice programmers (thereby increasing confidence of novice
>   programmers)

This is the one that sounds compelling to me.

>The first clearly applies to lots of approaches.

Which others have this leveling effect?

>Unfortunately, the small number of female students taking CS courses
>at all makes a statistically significant study hard to design,
>especially at the high school level where many current HtDP adopters
>teach.  A few of our teachers work at the middle school level and
>report positive impacts there, but I don't have statistics on that.

Not necessarily so. If you or anyone else is interested in conducting 
a meaningful quantitative study, an Educational Psychologist with 
whom I work on such issues, and I, would like to talk to you. We have 
the experience at writing and validating the necessary survey 
instruments and at evaluating the results. You could participate in 
this part of the research and would be responsible for getting survey 
data from middle schools and/or high schools and/or colleges.


PS We don't "believe" mathematical claims without "proof." I don't 
feel we should "believe" claims about pedagogic approached without 
the kind of quantitative "proof" that has long been possible in the 
social sciences. (Qualitative results, e.g., anecdotal evidence -- or 
better -- can give good reason to put in the effort to perform 
quantitative studies.)

>Kathi Fisler, Assistant Professor       Department of Computer Science
>         Worcester Polytechnic Institute
>Phone: 508-831-5118                     100 Institute Road
>Fax: 508-831-5776                       Worcester, MA 01609-2280

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