To what extent can an embedded problem-solving approach to teaching computer programming deliver a learning experience which meets learner and industry recruiter expectations?

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


Computer programming is regarded as a complex and difficult set of cognitive challenges influenced by a number of internal and external variables, and so the teaching and learning of computer programming has continually proven problematic. Even graduate software developers are often considered ill-equipped for industry.
The purpose of the research project was to determine whether the personality and problem-solving skills of novice programmers could determine potential suitability for specific software development roles, having first examined the personality types and problem-solving skills of professional software development personnel, considering relative personality trait strengths in relation to specific software roles; analysis, design, development and testing. Problem-solving skills acquisition, selection and application were considered in relation to each role, and data from both studies triangulated.
Data was collected from software development personnel in industry and from HNC computing students at Moray College UHI. The Keirsey Temperament Sorter was used to collect and analyse personality data, while HNC computing student problem-solving skills were tested via a computer programming aptitude test (CPAT). Participants from both samples were interviewed to determine how they acquired, selected and applied problem-solving skills.
While some research findings matched prior research, several new and important observations were made in this work. 1) Certain personality types, traits or trait strengths, can be associated with specific software development roles. 2) SD personnel and HNC computing students share many problem-solving skills, although SD personnel are more effective in selecting and applying them. 3) Strategy-gaming, puzzle-gaming, playing music and disassembly/reassembly, are key sources of problem-solving skills, rather than education. 4) SD personnel with leadership positions tend towards extraversion, while other roles tend strongly towards introversion. 5) Sensing and judging were the most dominant personality traits, while thinking/feeling appeared less important. 6) Suitability for specific roles can be determined by problem-solving capability and associated personality trait strengths.
Date of Award18 Dec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Aberdeen
SupervisorGareth Davies (Supervisor) & Frank Rennie (Supervisor)

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