Going SOLO to assess novice programmers

Judy Sheard*, Beth Simon, Angela Carbone, Errol Thompson, Raymond Lister, Jacqueline L. Whalley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputConference publication


This paper explores the programming knowledge of novices using Biggs' SOLO taxonomy. It builds on previous work of Lister et al. (2006) and addresses some of the criticisms of that work. The research was conducted by studying the exam scripts for 120 introductory programming students, in which three specific questions were analyzed using the SOLO taxonomy. The study reports the following four findings: when the instruction to students used by Lister et al. - "In plain English, explain what the following segment of Java code does" - is replaced with a less ambiguous instruction, many students still provide multistructural responses; students are relatively consistent in the SOLO level of their answers; student responses on SOLO reading tasks correlate positively with performance on writing tasks; postgraduates students manifest a higher level of thinking than undergraduates.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Conference on Integrating Technology into Computer Science Education, ITiCSE
Number of pages5
ISBN (Print)9781605580784
Publication statusPublished - 2008
EventITiCSE 2008: 13th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - Madrid, Spain
Duration: 30 Jun 20082 Jul 2008


ConferenceITiCSE 2008: 13th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education


  • Comprehension
  • CS1
  • Novice programmers
  • SOLO taxonomy


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