Programming Misconceptions for School Students

Alaaeddin Swidan, Felienne Hermans, Marileen Smit

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)
31 Downloads (Pure)


Programming misconceptions have been a topic of interest in introductory programming education, with a focus on university level students. Nowadays, programming is increasingly taught to younger children in schools, sometimes as part of the curriculum. In this study we aim at exploring what misconceptions are held by younger, school-age children. To this end we design a multiple-choice questionnaire with Scratch programming exercises. The questions represent a selected set of 11 known misconceptions and relate to basic programming concepts. 145 participants aged 7 to 17 years, with an experience in programming, took part in the study. Our results show the top three common misconceptions are the difficulty of understanding the sequentiality of statements, that a variable holds one value at a time, and the interactivity of a program when user input is required. Holding a misconception is influenced by the mathematical effect of numbers, semantic meaning of identifiers and high expectations of what a computer can do. Other insights from the results show that older children answer more questions correctly, especially for the variable and control concepts. Children who program in Scratch only seem to have difficulties in answering the questions correctly compared to children who program in Scratch and another language. Our findings suggest that work should focus on identifying Scratch-induced misconceptions, and develop intervention methods to counter those misconceptions as early as possible. Finally, for children who start learning programming with Scratch, materials should be more concept-rich and include diverse exercises for each concept.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationICER '18
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the 2018 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research
Place of PublicationNew York, NY
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-5628-2
Publication statusPublished - 2018
EventICER'18: The 2018 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research - Espoo, Finland
Duration: 13 Aug 201815 Aug 2018




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