March 1, 2022

Join us to discuss conversational programming on Monday 7th March at 2pm GMT

Between the traditional division of non-programmers and programmers, there is a third category of conversational programmers. These are people who learn programming so that they can speak in the “programmer’s language” in order to collaborate better with software engineers. Join us to discuss conversational programming via paper by Katie Cunningham et al. [1] This won a best paper award at SIGCSE 2022:

As the number of conversational programmers grows, computing educators are increasingly tasked with a paradox: to teach programming to people who want to communicate effectively about the internals of software, but not write code themselves. Designing instruction for conversational programmers is particularly challenging because their learning goals are not well understood, and few strategies exist for teaching to their needs. To address these gaps, we analyse the research on programming learning goals of conversational programmers from survey and interview studies of this population. We identify a major theme from these learners’ goals: they often involve making connections between code’s real-world purpose and various internal elements of software. To better understand the knowledge and skills conversational programmers require, we apply the Structure Behaviour Function framework to compare their learning goals to those of aspiring professional developers. Finally, we argue that instructional strategies for conversational programmers require a focus on high-level program behaviour that is not typically supported in introductory programming courses.

See [1] below

All welcome. As usual we’ll be meeting on zoom, details are in the slack channel sigcse.cs.manchester.ac.uk/join-us.


  1. Kathryn Cunningham, Yike Qiao, Alex Feng and Eleanor O’Rourke (2022) Bringing “High-level” Down to Earth: Gaining Clarity in Conversational Programmer Learning Goals in SIGCSE 2022: Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Pages 551–557 DOI:10.1145/3478431.3499370

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