This paper reports the results of mental effort measures and comments collected as part of a study of 44 introductory programming courses in 28 Australian universities, conducted in the latter months of 2010. Academic staff were interviewed regarding their perceptions of the mental effort that is required by themselves, an average student, and a low-performance student while attempting to solve and learn from a novice programming problem. Qualitative responses were also gathered from academics to gain insight into the various student profiles and impediments to learning for low-performing students. Mental effort results indicated that many lowperformance students typically experience high to extreme levels of mental effort. Verbal responses obtained from academics also indicate an awareness that for many low-performance students learning fails due to excessive demands being placed upon their cognitive resources. It is suggested that for many low-performance students learning fails due to cognitive overload. The implications for the selection of languages and environments and for the design of introductory programming courses (units) are discussed.
Mason, R & Cooper, G 2012, 'Why the bottom 10% just can't do it: mental effort measures and implication for introductory programming courses', in M de Raadt & A Carbone (eds), Proceedings of Fourteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE2012) , Melbourne, Vic., 30 January - 3 February, Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT, ACS, vol.123, pp. 187-196). ISBN: 9781921770043
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