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Abstract Title: How students make sense of functional, but incomplete computer programs.
Abstract: Computational activities in the Matter & Interactions[1] curriculum for calculus-based introductory physics promote the tenets of the curriculum: mainly, the deterministic view of classical mechanics. For systems that are too complex to calculate analytically, computers perform an iterative calculation of the fundamental principles of physics to predict the system's dynamics. An ongoing research project[2] analyzes video data of groups of students who completed restructured computational activities with VPython[3] in a lab setting. These activities were designed to guide student attention on using fundamental principles to repair functional, but incomplete programs. Borrowing a framework from reading comprehension[4], tasks were developed to ask students to read the program code in these minimally working programs (MWPs) and create predictions of the 3D visualization produced by the program. We present an analysis of how students interpreted the program code and created predictions of the visualization for three separate activities distributed throughout the semester.

[1] http://www.matterandinteractions.org
[2] Supported by NSF Grant DUE-0618504
[3] http://www.vpython.org
[4] Palinscar,A.S. and Brown,A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition & Instruction,1(2),117-175.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Shawn A. Weatherford
North Carolina State University
Campus Box 8202
Raleigh, NC 27695-8202
and Co-Presenter(s)
Ruth Chabay, North Carolina State University