The use of pair-programming to enhance the academic performance of tertiary level software development students

Thumbnail Image
Kafilongo, Kindu Wa Mulumba
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
The number of students passing computer programming modules at Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in South Africa at first year level is low. Only with the second attempt do most students pass. This delay results in students completing their three-year undergraduate qualification in four or even five years. One potential contribution towards addressing this problem is the introduction of a collaborative (cooperative) pedagogical approach where students develop software in teams, known in the Information Technology (IT) sector as pair-programming. This study endeavoured to investigate the impact of pair-programming on the academic progress of students registered for the Information Technology qualification at HEIs in South Africa. The study warranted the selection of action research as the most appropriate research strategy. Multi-methods data collection was carried out over two consecutive semesters. The data collection methods included a semi-structured interview, observations and empirical assessment. The participants were students registered for the Information Systems module, which focuses on software development. Pair-programming was introduced to one group of software development students, while a second group continued with the normal solo-programming approach. Semi-structured interviews were held with the students before commencement and after completion of the pair-programming intervention, to establish a change, if any, in the academic performance, attitude and enjoyment level of students introduced to pair-programming compared to those who continued with solo-programming. Observations were conducted throughout the course of the practical sessions over both semesters. Empirical assessments were done by means of tests given to both groups of students during the practical sessions, three tests per semester. Data analysis techniques included t-tests and thematic analysis. The findings concluded that pair-programming had a significant positive impact on the academic progress of IT students, including an increase in the enjoyment level and a more positive attitude towards software development.
M. Tech. (Information Technology, Faculty of Applied and Computer Sciences, Vaal University of Technology
Computer programming students, Collaborative pedagogical approach, Pair-programming, Action research strategy, Multi-methods data collection, Software development students