Three views on motivation and programming

Amber Settle, Arto Vihavainen, Juha Sorva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference article in proceedingsScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Teaching programming is one of the most widely studied areas in computing education. Part of the reason for this may be the difficulty students experience when learning programming which makes it a challenging endeavor for instructors. There is a relationship between student motivation and success in learning to program [1], and motivation is also important in the bigger picture for computing educators, having inspired two ITiCSE working groups [2]. What is perhaps surprising is that motivation does not play an equal role in the various subfields of programming education. In this panel we discuss three areas of programming education, emphasizing the importance of, or in some cases the lack of attention to, student motivation. The first panelist will consider task design, and particularly what we can do to motivate students to learn to program in CS1 courses. Here instructors must pay careful attention to the level of difficulty of tasks as well as the way in which they prompt students in their course activities. A balance between challenge and support must be found to enable students to reach their potential in the crucial first class. The second panelist will discuss program visualization tools. Motivation is related to perceived relevance: a tool is only likely to be helpful if students see it as useful in relation to their existing goals. The perceived relevance of visualization tools and students' motivation to use them might be boosted by training students to explain visual examples to themselves and by increasing students' sense of ownership over what is being visualized. The third panelist considers the teaching of recursion. Although recursion is one of the most difficult ideas programming students encounter, motivation is a little-discussed topic in the literature. Information about the few studies that have considered motivation is presented, along with ideas as to why motivation does not play a larger role in the area.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationITICSE 2014 - Proceedings of the 2014 Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education Conference
Number of pages2
ISBN (Print)9781450328333
Publication statusPublished - 2014
MoE publication typeA4 Conference publication
EventAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - Uppsala, Sweden
Duration: 23 Jun 201425 Jun 2014
Conference number: 19


ConferenceAnnual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education
Abbreviated titleITiCSE


  • CS1
  • Motivation
  • Programming
  • Recursion
  • Visualization


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