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More Than the Code: Learning Rules of Rejection in Writing Programs

More Than the Code, illustration

Credit: Kostsov

Lee Shulman, a past president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Learning, identifies the signature pedagogies of professions as those characteristic forms of teaching and learning that "define what counts as knowledge in a field and how things become known."13 If there is a signature pedagogy for computing, it is surely the writing of code together between a teacher and students: The teacher poses a problem, solicits input from students about how to write the code to solve this problem, and weaves together the suggestions from different students into a coherent whole. This pattern is so pervasive that anyone who has spent time in a computer science classroom has participated in this pedagogical form.

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Given its ubiquity, one would think this signature pedagogy is well understood. Yet our search of the educational literature yielded not a single prior research study focused on this signature pedagogy of computer science. Our aim here is to fill this gap. In particular, we provide an empirical account of the joint—irreducibly social—work that programming students and teachers perform. We ask: What is it that occurs when a teacher and students write code together? What is learn-able about that joint work? And how can it further inform computing teaching and learning practice?


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