Not seeing the forest for the trees: novice programmers and the SOLO taxonomy

Raymond Lister, Beth Simon, Errol Thompson, Jacqueline L Whalley, Christine Prasad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This paper reports on the authors use of the SOLO taxonomy to describe differences in the way students and educators solve small code reading exercises. SOLO is a general educational taxonomy, and has not previously been applied to the study of how novice programmers manifest their understanding of code. Data was collected in the form of written and think-aloud responses from students (novices) and educators (experts), using exam questions. During analysis, the responses were mapped to the different levels of the SOLO taxonomy. From think-aloud responses, the authors found that educators tended to manifest a SOLO relational response on small reading problems, whereas students tended to manifest a multistructural response. These results are consistent with the literature on the psychology of programming, but the work in this paper extends on these findings by analyzing the design of exam questions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118
Number of pages122
JournalSIGCSE Bulletin Inroads
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2006
EventITICSE '06 Proceedings of the 11th annual SIGCSE conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education - Italy, Bologna, Italy
Duration: 26 Jun 200628 Jun 2006


  • computer science education
  • SOLO taxonomy
  • novice programmers


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