Otago Polytechnic
CORP staff KWood DParsons 002

Support = success

New research from Otago Polytechnic Information Technology staff on how to teach computer programming

Krissi Wood, Dale Parsons, Joy Gasson and Patricia Haden

Worldwide, the failure rate for first-year computer programming students is alarmingly high. Recent research has identified that those who ended up failing, often had problems with computer programming in the early days, or weeks, of the course.

The Pair Programming in CS1 research project at Otago Polytechnic – one of the first of its kind – used an existing software development technique to support novice computer programming students.

 “We believe in the importance of supporting all students,” explains project collaborator Krissi Wood, “especially those who might otherwise struggle, or even fail.”

Wood and her co-researchers Dale Parsons, Joy Gasson and Patricia Haden are all lecturers within the Bachelor of Information Technology programme at Otago Polytechnic.

“The project took an industry-standard technique for collaborative software development and modified it for use in the classroom with novice programming students,” Wood says. “We use a ‘banding’ technique when pairing students up, ensuring that students with similar levels of confidence work together.”

The project’s success has already changed teaching practices within the course. The lecturers have presented and published their research internationally, which has helped strengthen Otago Polytechnic’s global relationship within computer science education.

 “It has really boosted student success, as well as improving students’ social interaction skills,” affirms Wood. “For the future, we’ll continue to explore new teaching techniques that make learning programming more accessible and enjoyable for all students.”

Wood, K., Parsons, D., Gasson, J., Haden, P. (2013) It's Never Too Early: Pair Programming In CS1. Fifteenth Australasian Computing Education Conference Adelaide, Australia, 29 January - 1 February 2013 http://crpit.com/Vol136.html