טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentKhalifa Waleed
SubjectProblem Solving in Abstract Data Types by High School
Students
DepartmentDepartment of Education in Science and Technology
Supervisor Professor Emeritus Uri Leron


Abstract

This dissertation describes a research conducted in computer science high-school classrooms while the students were learning Abstract Data Types. The students were studying abstract data type’s module after completing three modules based on the paradigm of procedural programming. The study researches the strategies used by the students and the conceptions they developed during their exposure to the paradigm. With the aim of enriching the emerging discipline of computer-science education, the main goal is to characterize high school students’ practice with abstract data types.

The fieldwork of this study carried out by the guiding principles of ethnographic research.

The data collected from computer science high school students over a four-year period. The main tool for data collection was a special kind of interviews, conducted with the students as they were working on programming or algorithmic assignments.

The findings of the research reveal pupils’ difficulties in connection to representation of data types and their related operations. The overall theoretical framework of this study based on a combination of a cognitive psychology theory called “the dual system” that differentiates between intuitive and analytical thinking, and a theory, which declares that most human thinking is mainly metaphoric.

In learning abstract data types, the students tried to bridge the gap between their current knowledge and the new knowledge by giving daily meanings to software operations that are mostly related to objects and the operations on them and to metaphors. That is to say, the students take something known and adopt it (its meaning) for a meaning of an operation or a statement in a programming language. The students mistakenly use operations because they give them a programming meaning depending on previous knowledge of daily physical objects and depend on language.

The findings have been organized in a main category: the influence of intuition of daily operations on students' writing in formal language in the course of their study of abstract data types. This category includes two main sub-categories: 1) giving a daily meaning to operations on abstract data types in the transition from an idea to formal language, and 2) the influence of intuition of daily operations on successful working strategies.

This study has practical implications for the teaching of abstract data types and can contribute to the understanding of the processes that high school computer science students go through in their learning of abstract data types.