Monday, February 23, 2009

This Might Explain Why I Can't Get Jennifer to Write Programs for Me in Lisp

Mark Guzdial:

The second piece of evidence is more research-based, but still anecdotal.  John Anderson's group at Carnegie-Mellon University has created several intelligent tutoring systems that teach Pascal and Lisp.  These have been found to be successful at teaching students the language.  However I noted that they never asked the question, "Can the students who learn Pascal or Lisp using the cognitive tutors program in those languages afterward?"  I asked Ken Koedinger this question once.  His answer was, "No way!"  The cognitive tutors lead students to write correct programs.  They never *run* the programs.  They never *debug* the programs. (Why would you debug something that's already right?) These students have a really good shot at writing a program correctly the first time. Any mistakes at all, and they're hosed. I know of no paper from CMU where they actually tested this claim and published the results.  (If you find one, please send me a link!)

Jennifer responds: "I did so have to debug Lisp, with all those damn parenthesis."

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