Threshold Concepts in Computer Programming

Phase 1: Threshold Concepts in Functions and Procedural Abstraction

The first phase of our research was successfully completed. The purpose of this phase was to explore computing teachers’ perspectives on the Threshold Concept framework and to suggest potential threshold concepts in the area of Functions and, more generally, in Procedural Abstraction.

A study was conducted, using the Delphi method, including both computing teachers with experience
teaching at upper secondary/high school and computing teachers with experience practicing programming in a professional environment for more than 7 years. The results indicate that the
majority of the participants support that the Threshold Concept framework can explain students’ difficulties in programming and agreed on 11 potential threshold concepts in the area of Functions
and Procedural Abstraction:

  • Parameters
  • Arguments
  • Parameter passing
  • Calling a function
  • Control flow
  • Abstraction
  • Recursion
  • Variables
  • Variable scope
  • Return values
  • Procedural decomposition

To read more about this study please download our research paper that was presented at WiPSCE: Threshold concept paper

Further interviews were conducted with four computing teachers. The aim of these interviews was to explore in more depth the teachers’ experiences with these concepts and find more evidence of the transformative and integrative feature of these concepts. The results of this study will be presented soon.