Original Research

Thinking processes used by high-performing students in a computer programming task

Marietjie Havenga, R De Villiers, E Mentz
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 7, No 1 | a252 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/td.v7i1.252 | © 2011 Marietjie Havenga, R De Villiers, E Mentz | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 March 2016 | Published: 31 July 2011

About the author(s)

Marietjie Havenga, Faculty of Education Sciences, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
R De Villiers, School of Computing, University of South Africa, Unisa, South Africa
E Mentz, Faculty of Education, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa

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Abstract

Computer programmers must be able to understand programming source code and write programs that execute complex tasks to solve real-world problems. This article is a trans- disciplinary study at the intersection of computer programming, education and psychology. It outlines the role of mental processes in the process of programming and indicates how successful thinking processes can support computer science students in writing correct and well-defined programs. A mixed methods approach was used to better understand the thinking activities and programming processes of participating students. Data collection involved both computer programs and students’ reflective thinking processes recorded in their journals. This enabled analysis of psychological dimensions of participants’ thinking processes and their problem-solving activities as they considered a programming problem. Findings indicate that the cognitive, reflective and psychological processes used by high-performing programmers contributed to their success in solving a complex programming problem. Based on the thinking processes of high performers, we propose a model of integrated thinking processes, which can support computer programming students.

Keywords: Computer programming, education, mixed methods research, thinking processes. 

Disciplines: Computer programming, education, psychology


Keywords

Computer programming; education; mixed methods research; thinking processes

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