On the Nature of Programming Exercises

Authors Alberto Simões , Ricardo Queirós

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Author Details

Alberto Simões
  • 2Ai, School of Technology, IPCA, Barcelos, Portugal
Ricardo Queirós
  • CRACS, INESC-Porto LA, Portugal
  • uniMAD, ESMAD, Polythechnic of Porto, Portugal

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Alberto Simões and Ricardo Queirós. On the Nature of Programming Exercises. In First International Computer Programming Education Conference (ICPEC 2020). Open Access Series in Informatics (OASIcs), Volume 81, pp. 24:1-24:9, Schloss Dagstuhl – Leibniz-Zentrum für Informatik (2020)


There are countless reasons cited in scientific studies to explain the difficulties in programming learning. The reasons range from the subject’s complexity, the ineffective teaching and study methods, to psychological aspects such as demotivation. Still, learning programming often boils down to practice on exercise solving. Hence, it is essential to understand that the nature of a programming exercise is an important factor for the success and consistent learning. This paper explores different approaches on the creation of a programming exercise, starting with realizing how it is currently formalized, presented and evaluated. From there, authors suggest variations that seek to broaden the way an exercise is solved and, with this diversity, increase student engagement and learning outcome. The several types of exercises presented can use gamification techniques fostering student motivation. To contextualize the student with his peers, we finish presenting metrics that can be obtained by existing automatic assessment tools.

Subject Classification

ACM Subject Classification
  • Applied computing → Education
  • Programming Exercises
  • Computer Science
  • Automatic Evaluation
  • Programming Challenges


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