טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentLevy Dalit
SubjectDevelopment of Computer-Science Concepts through
Classification and Generalization
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Emeritus Uri Leron


Abstract

This dissertation describes a fieldwork that was conducted mainly in 11th grade classes in which computer science was studied. The students in these classes dealt with the basic concepts of the functional programming paradigm, including the concept of “recursion”. Recursion is considered to be one of the central concepts in computer science, with links to many other subjects as well. The concept of recursion is also known to be one of the hardest to teach and to learn, and the education literature discusses at length the difficulties faced by different learners who deal with programming using recursion. However, little mention is made in this literature of the ways in which learners perceive the concept of recursion in its broad sense. The current study attempts to bridge this gap to some degree, by focusing on 11th grade classes in the initial stages of confronting the concept of recursion, and on the unique characteristics of the class discussion in these classes. 

The treatment of recursion in the classes began with a general (rather than programming) consideration of recursive phenomena, in the framework of a learning activity known as classification and generalization activity (CGA). During the research, the class discussion that accompanied the various stages of the CGA was documented and interpreted. The learning environment in which the class discussion was documented was characterized, on the one hand, by the application of educational principles that stem from constructivist theory, and on the other hand, by a broad  reference to the concept of recursion. These characteristics enabled the realization of the research goals: to monitor the perceptual development occurring while dealing with the concept of recursion in a non-programming context, and to document and interpret the social processes of concept development related to recursion.

The fieldwork was directed by the guiding principles of ethnographic research. The research findings were obtained as a result of inductive analysis of the class discourse documented in the research field. These findings include twenty-five preconceptions that find expression in the discourse that accompanies the CGA. These preconceptions are arranged in a diverse and complex network of connections. The findings from the socio-communications aspect include the description of the creation and development of the class genre agreed upon for discussion of the recursive phenomena. It was found also that the episodes of argument have potential for conceptual development, due to their expression of conflict among perceptions, and in particular the conflict between sequential perception and cyclical perception and the conflict between the perception of expansion and the perception of convergence.

The major impact of this research stems from the fact that despite the recent unprecedented progress of the computer science discipline, the educational research relating to computer science concepts is extremely limited. This research’s contribution is also expressed in the examination of learning-teaching situations in their natural environment, and in the significance attributed to the field’s “voice”.