Personifying programming tool feedback improves novice programmers' learning

Michael J. Lee, Andrew J. Ko

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

87 Scopus citations

Abstract

Many novice programmers view programming tools as all-knowing, infallible authorities about what is right and wrong about code. This misconception is particularly detrimental to beginners, who may view the cold, terse, and often judgmental errors from compilers as a sign of personal failure. It is possible, however, that attributing this failure to the computer, rather than the learner, may improve learners' motivation to program. To test this hypothesis, we present Gidget, a game where the eponymous robot protagonist is cast as a fallible character that blames itself for not being able to correctly write code to complete its missions. Players learn programming by working with Gidget to debug its problematic code. In a two-condition controlled experiment, we manipulated Gidget's level of personification in: communication style, sound effects, and image. We tested our game with 116 self-described novice programmers recruited on Amazon's Mechanical Turk and found that, when given the option to quit at any time, those in the experimental condition (with a personable Gidget) completed significantly more levels in a similar amount of time. Participants in the control and experimental groups played the game for an average time of 39.4 minutes (SD=34.3) and 50.1 minutes (SD=42.6) respectively. These finding suggest that how programming tool feedback is portrayed to learners can have a significant impact on motivation to program and learning success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICER'11 - Proceedings of the ACM SIGCSE 2011 International Computing Education Research Workshop
Pages109-116
Number of pages8
DOIs
StatePublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes
Event7th International Computing Education Research Workshop, ICER 2011 - Providence, RI, United States
Duration: Aug 8 2011Aug 9 2011

Publication series

NameICER'11 - Proceedings of the ACM SIGCSE 2011 International Computing Education Research Workshop

Other

Other7th International Computing Education Research Workshop, ICER 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityProvidence, RI
Period8/8/118/9/11

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Science (miscellaneous)
  • Education

Keywords

  • debugging
  • education
  • motivation
  • personification
  • programming

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