Universiteit Leiden

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This Week’s Discoveries | 4 December 2018

4 december 2018
Niels Bohrweg 2
2333 CA Leiden
De Sitterzaal


Felienne Hermans (LIACS)
Felienne is associate professor and researcher programming education at LIACS. On Saturdays she teaches children programming in a local community center. She is one of the organizers of the CurryOn conference, which aims to bridge the gap between industry and academia. Felienne was also one of the founders of the Joy of Coding conference, with a similar goal, which she organized for 6 years. Since 2016, she has been host at SE radio, one of the most popular software engineering podcasts on the web. When she is not coding, blogging or teaching, she is probably knitting, running or playing a (board)game. Felienne blogs at felienne.com


Teaching programming is hard, for various reasons. One of the reasons is that novices can suffer from ‘misconceptions’: wrong beliefs about programming. For example, a common misconception about variable assignment happens when two assignments are used, such as x = 5; x = 7. Some novice programmers incorrectly believe that variables can hold multiple values at the same time, called the ‘multiple values’ hypothesis. This might be related to the fact that we sometimes explain variables as ‘boxes’ that ‘hold’ values. To investigate this, we ran an experiment with 496 novice programmers, both children and adults. Half of the participants received a lesson in which we explain a variable as a box, while the other half of participants receive the explanation of a variable as being a label. After the lessons we questioned them about their understanding of variables. Do you want to know what metaphor works best? Felienne will explain it in This Week’s Discovery.

Read more about the lecture series This Week's Discoveries

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