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Monday, March 1 • 3:10pm - 3:25pm
Talk Session 2: What gaze tells us about novice code reading behavior

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Code reading is an important skill in programming. Inspired by the linearity that people exhibit while natural language text reading, we designed local and global gaze-based measures to characterize linearity (left-to-right and top-to-bottom) in reading source code. Unlike natural language text, source code is executable and requires a specific reading approach. To validate these measures, we compared the eye movements of novice and expert programmers who were asked to read and comprehend short snippets of natural language text and Java programs. Our results show that novices read source code less linearly than natural language text. Moreover, experts read code less linearly than novices. These findings indicate that there are specific differences between reading natural language and source code, and suggest that non-linear reading skills increase with expertise.

Reading skills are often a precursor to problem-solving skills. Unlike natural language text, source code is executable and requires a specific reading approach. It has been shown that one of the effective ways to improve skill acquisition is to cue visual attention of novices to the locations that experts attend while performing a task. If such intervention should be adopted in teaching program comprehension skills, knowledge about the expert behavior and significant differences between expert and novice programmers is very helpful, so that interventions can concentrate on these differences. Instructors could use tools like these to investigate the effectiveness of new pedagogies. Novice programmers could monitor their own progress and judge whether they have achieved personalized learning goals.

avatar for Bonita Sharif

Bonita Sharif

Associate Professor, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Bonita Sharif, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at University of Nebraska - Lincoln, Lincoln, Nebraska USA. She received her Ph.D. in 2010 and MS in 2003 in Computer Science from Kent State University, U.S.A and B.S. in Computer... Read More →

Monday March 1, 2021 3:10pm - 3:25pm CST