YES:

Mathematical and logical skills, yes. But I really don't think you need to do more than ask them what educational qualifications they have.


Being them Italian students at the university level, having an educational qualification is not often a good indicator of what skills they have (sadly)

Previous programming experience - the best criterion might be number of languages known, but if you're working at a lower level then your suggestions are fine - loops and conditionals and function definitions.

Yes, most of them have no knowledge at all about programming

NO:
linguistics, no (plenty of good computer scientists whose native language is English aren't good at spelling and punctuation)

I see. But don't you think that, among those people that don't know anything about programming, someone being very good at punctuation could perform better at programming? I'm thinking to the classical Logo example to draw a square:

repeat 4 [forward 100 right 90]

that is, when rephrased in plain english:

repeat 4 times move 100 steps and turn right.

Interpreting this with the right punctuation "repeat 4 times: move 100 steps and turn right" or with the wrong one "repeat 4 times: move 100 steps. Then turn right" makes a difference. I noticed that some students are better at grasping this difference, other students need more time (or don't grasp the difference at all). Can this be evaluated in a pre-test?


other domains - nothing good found so far.

There is very little that anyone can do that will predict specific success at learning to program, other than general tests of ability.

ALSO:

One other thing I would recommend is a test of self-efficacy. Someone else must know more about testing that than I do. Self-efficacy means, roughly, believing in your own ability; there's evidence that people who believe in themselves do better than people who don't.

I hadn't thought of it. But I can imagine that it can be influential. Do you have references to research on this topic?


DISCLAIMER

There are people on this list who know a whole lot more about this than I do. If they speak up, believe what they say, not what I said.

Thomas Green



On 18 Mar 2011, at 14:40, Stefano Federici wrote:

Dear collegues,
I want to thank you the list for the precious suggestions about the evaluation of programming environments.

Now I have an urgent need to know which (if any) are the specific tests that would allow me to group students that have an inclination to programming from students that have so such an inclination, and students that already know how to program a computer from students that have never tried to program a computer.

I can imagine that I have to test their mathematical and logical skills. I can check if they have previous knowledge about programming and programming languages. But should I check if they have good knowledge about specific areas of linguistics, such as, e.g., syntax? Are there other domains that may be relevent for an individual so to understand in advance if they have an inclination to computer programming?

Going in more detail:
- which are the mathematical and logical skills I have to evaluate? I can imagine fractions, series, simple equations, geometrical analogies, problem solving, truth tables - which are the programming knowledge I should pre-evaluate? I can imagine variables, loops, conditionals, function definition - maybe even the following skills in linguistics can be of help: phrase understanding, knowledge of punctuation

Are there other domains/skills I could/should check? Which are the specific tests that can allow me to evaluate their relevant skills?

Thanks a lot in advance


Stefano Federici
-------------------------------------------------
Università degli Studi di Cagliari
Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione
Dipartimento di Scienze Pedagogiche e Filosofiche
Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09123 Cagliari, Italia
-------------------------------------------------
Cell: +39 349 818 1955 Tel.: +39 070 675 7815
Fax: +39 070 675 7113



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Stefano Federici
-------------------------------------------------
Università degli Studi di Cagliari
Facoltà di Scienze della Formazione
Dipartimento di Scienze Pedagogiche e Filosofiche
Via Is Mirrionis 1, 09123 Cagliari, Italia
-------------------------------------------------
Cell: +39 349 818 1955 Tel.: +39 070 675 7815
Fax: +39 070 675 7113


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