Executable Examples for Programming Problem Comprehension

John Wrenn, Shriram Krishnamurthi

SIGCSE International Computing Education Research Conference, 2019


Flawed problem comprehension leads students to produce flawed implementations. However, testing alone is inadequate for checking comprehension: if a student develops both their tests and implementation with the same misunderstanding, running their tests against their implementation will not reveal the issue. As a solution, some pedagogies encourage the creation of input--output examples independent of testing---but seldom provide students with any mechanism to check that their examples are correct and thorough.

We propose a mechanism that provides students with instant feedback on their examples, independent of their implementation progress. We assess the impact of such an interface on an introductory programming course and find several positive impacts, some more neutral outcomes, and no identified negative effects.


See a brief, explanatory video of an earlier version of Examplar.



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