The cognition of programming: logical reasoning, algebra and vocabulary skills predict programming performance following an introductory computing course

Irene L. Graafsma*, Serje Robidoux, Lyndsey Nickels, Matthew Roberts, Vince Polito, Judy D. Zhu, Eva Marinus

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
79 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

In the current study we aimed to determine which cognitive skills play a role when learning to program. We examined five cognitive skills (pattern recognition, algebra, logical reasoning, grammar learning and vocabulary learning) as predictors of course-related programming performance and their generalised programming performance in 282 students in an undergraduate introductory programming course. Initial skills in algebra, logical reasoning, and vocabulary learning predicted performance for generalised programming skill, while only logical reasoning skills predicted course-related programming performance. Structural equation modelling showed support for a model where the cognitive skills were grouped into a language factor and an algorithmic/mathematics factor. Of these two factors, only the algorithmic/mathematics factor was found to predict generalised and course-related programming skills. Our results suggested that algorithmic/mathematical skills are most relevant when predicting generalised programming success, but also showed a role for memory-related language skills.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)364-381
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Volume35
Issue number3
Early online date18 Jan 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2023. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.

Keywords

  • programming
  • coding
  • cognitive skills
  • learning
  • programming success

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