Towards Understanding Information Systems Students’ Experience of Learning Introductory Programming: A Phenomenographic Approach

Irene Govender
Journal of Information Technology Education: Innovations in Practice  •  Volume 20  •  2021  •  pp. 081-092

This study seeks to understand the various ways information systems (IS) students experience introductory programming to inform IS educators on effective pedagogical approaches to teaching programming.

Many students who choose to major in information systems (IS), enter university with little or no experience of learning programming. Few studies have dealt with students’ learning to program in the business faculty, who do not necessarily have the computer science goal of programming. It has been shown that undergraduate IS students struggle with programming.

The qualitative approach was used in this study to determine students’ notions of learning to program and to determine their cognitive processes while learning to program in higher education. A cohort of 47 students, who were majoring in Information Systems within the Bachelor of Commerce degree programme were part of the study. Reflective journals were used to allow students to record their experiences and to study in-depth their insights and experiences of learning to program during the course. Using phenomenographic methods, categories of description that uniquely characterises the various ways IS students experience learning to program were determined.

This paper provides educators with empirical evidence on IS students’ experiences of learning to program, which play a crucial role in informing IS educators on how they can lend support and modify their pedagogical approach to teach programming to students who do not necessarily need to have the computer science goal of programming. This study contributes additional evidence that suggests more categories of description for IS students within a business degree. It provides valuable pedagogical insights for IS educators, thus contributing to the body of knowledge

The findings of this study reveal six ways in which IS students’ experience the phenomenon, learning to program. These ways, referred to categories of description, formed an outcome space.

Use the experiences of students identified in this study to determine approach to teaching and tasks or assessments assigned

Using phenomenographic methods researchers in IS or IT may determine pedagogical content knowledge in teaching specific aspects of IT or IS.

More business students would be able to program and improve their logical thinking and coding skills.

Implement the recommendations for practice and evaluate the students’ performance.

information systems, introductory programming, outcome space, phenomenography
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