Decoding the underlying cognitive processes and related support strategies utilised by expert instructors during source code comprehension
Many novice programmers fail to comprehend source code and its related concepts in the same way that their instructors do. As emphasised in the Decoding the Disciplines (DtDs) framework, each discipline (including Computer Science) has its own unique set of mental operations. However, instructors often take certain important mental operations for granted and do not explain these 'hidden' steps explicitly when modelling problem solutions. A clear understanding of the underlying cognitive processes and related support strategies employed by experts during source code comprehension (SCC) could ultimately be utilised to help novice programmers to better execute the cognitive processes necessary to efficiently comprehend source code. Positioned within Step 2 of the DtDs framework, this study employed decoding interviews and observations, followed by narrative data analysis, to identify the underlying cognitive processes and related support (though often 'hidden') strategies utilised by a select group of experienced programming instructors during an SCC task. The insights gained were then used to formulate a set of important cognitive-related support strategies for efficient SCC. Programming instructors are encouraged to continuously emphasise strategies like these when modelling their expert ways of thinking regarding efficient SCC more explicitly to their novice students.
Copyright (c) 2020 Liezel Nel, Pakiso Khomokhoana
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.Copyright of all work published here subsists in the authors. While SACJ retains right of first publication, subsequent re-publication is expressly permitted provided the original SACJ publication is acknowledged and cited, according to the terms detailed below. If plagiarism is detected during review, a paper may be summarily rejected and will not be accepted unless even minor infringements are corrected. Should plagiarism be detected after a paper is published, the Editor reserves the right to withdraw a paper from publication. We expect authors to be honest in representing work as their own, and to respect the time and effort our reviewers put in without an undue burden of policing plagiarism, and hence take violations seriously. SACJ applies the Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial 4.0 License (CC BY-NC 4.0) to all papers published in this journal. Authors who publish with SACJ agree to the following:
- Authors retain copyright and grant SACJ right of first publication. The work is additionally licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License that requires others who share the work to acknowledge the work’s authorship and initial publication in SACJ. Should anyone else wish to make commercial use of the work, SACJ cedes the right to the author to negotiate terms and does not expect to be paid any royalties.
- Authors may enter into additional arrangements for non-exclusive distribution of the SACJ-published version of the work (e.g., post it to a repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are required to refrain from posting their work online prior to completion of reviews so as not to compromise double-blind reviewing or confuse plagiarism checks.