Reading Group: Understanding conceptual transfer for students learning new programming languages

DATE: 2nd August 2019
TIME: 13:00-14:00
LOCATION: Sir Alwyn Williams Building, 422 Seminar Room

As students learn computer science (CS), they will need to transfer skills and understanding from one programming language (PL) to another. Prior research has explored the transition between languages for (mainly experienced) programmers, identifying a number of challenges. I could not find research attempting to devise a model that describes how students' learning of programming concepts is affected during the shift between languages. I propose the first draft of a model to describe PL transfer for relative novices based on the literature and my observations of these students transitioning from procedural Python to object-oriented Java. I propose that during the transition, novices automatically effect a transfer of semantics between languages based on the perceived matches made between the syntax of the prior language and the new language. I propose that the semantic transfer will affect learners learning of concepts positively on Carryover concepts and negatively on Changed Concepts, there will be no semantic transfer on concepts perceived to be Novel.

First published: 2 August 2019