MPhil thesis-1986-Brady.pdf (4.79 MB)
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The design of a first course in programming

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posted on 20.09.2012, 10:16 authored by Michael P. Brady
A course was designed to teach Top-Down programming to second level students who had no previous computer experience. The purposes of the course were a) to enable them to become computer literate and b) to develop their problem-solving ability. The course was designed to teach programming in a manner which was independent of any particular programming language or machine. This approach was prompted by dissatisfaction with traditional courses which generally concentrate on the syntax and semantics of a particular programming language, at the expense of developing important underlying concepts. Initially, a review of the history of programming languages was carried out to identify the essential elements of programming. This review found that there was general agreement about the fundamental importance of structure and that it was not necessary to use all of the control constructs contained in the available languages (BASIC, COMAL and PASCAL). Both a mini-language; containing just two control structures, and a diagrammatic representation (structure diagrams) of the mini-language were then designed. The chosen control structures were IF/THEN/ELIF/ELSE for selection and a WHILE loop for iteration. The students were trained to solve problems using the mini-language and structure diagrams and were supplied with translation rules to convert their solutions into COMAL. Translation rules were also drawn up for PASCAL and BASIC. The course was tested with girls aged 15 and 16 years in a Dublin secondary school. These trials showed that the method may be used successfully with students of this age.



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© Michael P. Brady

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A Master's Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Master of Philosophy of Loughborough University.



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