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Research and Advances

A diagnosis of beginning programmers’ misconceptions of BASIC programming statements

In the process of learning a computer language, beginning programmers may develop mental models for the language. A mental model refers to the user's conception of the “invisible” information processing that occurs inside the computer between input and output. In this study, 30 undergraduate students learned BASIC through a self-paced, mastery manual and simultaneously had hands-on access to an Apple II computer. After instruction, the students were tested on their mental models for the execution of each of nine BASIC statements. The results show that beginning programmers—although able to perform adequately on mastery tests in program generation—possessed a wide range of misconceptions concerning the statements they had learned. This paper catalogs beginning programmers' conceptions of “what goes on inside the computer” for each of nine BASIC statements.
Research and Advances

Psychology of calculator languages: a framework for describing differences in users' knowledge

This paper presents a framework for describing users' knowledge of how a simple four-function calculator operates. Differences among novices and experts in their conceptions of “what goes on inside the calculator” for various sequences of button presses are summarized. Individual differences include different views on when an expression is evaluated, different procedures for evaluating a chain of arithmetic, and different rules for evaluating unusual sequences of key presses.
Research and Advances

A psychology of learning BASIC

This paper addresses the question: What does a person know following learning of BASIC programming? Several underlying conceptual structures are identified: (1) a transaction is an event that occurs in the computer and involves some operation on some object at some location, (2) a prestatement is a set of transactions corresponding to a line of code, (3) chunks are frequently occurring configurations of prestatements corresponding to several lines of code.

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