Cognitive characteristics of learning Java, an object-oriented programming language
Garry Lynn White, The University of Texas at Austin, United States
The University of Texas at Austin . Awarded
Industry and Academia are moving from procedural programming languages (e.g., COBOL) to object-oriented programming languages, such as Java for the Internet. Past studies in the cognitive aspects of programming have focused primarily on procedural programming languages. Some of the languages used have been Pascal, C, Basic, FORTAN, and COBOL. Object-oriented programming (OOP) represents a new paradigm for computing. Industry is finding that programmers are having difficulty shifting to this new programming paradigm. This instruction in OOP is currently starting in colleges and universities across the country.
What are the cognitive aspects for this new OOP language Java? When is a student developmentally ready to handle the cognitive characteristics of the OOP language Java? Which cognitive teaching style is best for this OOP language Java? Questions such as the aforementioned are the focus of this research Such research is needed to improve understanding of the learning process and identify students' difficulties with OOP methods. This can enhance academic teaching and industry training (Scholtz, 1993; Sheetz, 1997; Rosson, 1990).
Cognitive development as measured by the Propositional Logic Test, cognitive style as measured by the Hemispheric Mode Indicator, and physical hemispheric dominance as measured by a self-report survey were obtained from thirty-six university students studying Java programming. Findings reveal that physical hemispheric dominance is unrelated to cognitive and programming language variables. However, both procedural and object oriented programming require Piaget's formal operation cognitive level as indicated by the Propositional Logic Test. This is consistent with prior research A new finding is that object oriented programming also requires formal operation cognitive level. Another new finding is that object oriented programming appears to be unrelated to hemispheric cognitive style as indicated by the Hemispheric Mode Indicator (HMI). This research suggests that object oriented programming is hemispheric thinking style friendly, while procedural programming is left hemispheric cognitive style.
The conclusion is that cognitive characteristics are not the cause for the difficulty in shifting from procedural to this new programming paradigm of object oriented programming. An alternative possibility to the difficulty is proactive interference. Prior learning of procedural programming makes it harder to learning object oriented programming. Further research is needed to determine if proactive interference is the cause for the difficulty in shifting from procedural programming to object oriented programming.
White, G.L. Cognitive characteristics of learning Java, an object-oriented programming language. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Texas at Austin.
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