Designing Engaging Learning Experiences in Programming

  • Christopher James Martin

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This thesis describes research into supporting the creation of engaging learning experiences with programming. A review of relevant research that could contribute to the design of engaging learning experiences informed the construction of four pieces of fieldwork. These fieldwork studies were conducted to explore the framing of learning programming in tasks that motivate and are of value to the learner. Findings resulted in the design of a set of eight Learning Dimensions. These Learning Dimensions are proposed to address three key areas: (1) design and delivery of learning task, (2) rhythm or tempo of the learning experience and (3) practicalities. The Learning Dimensions provide educators with insights to support key design decisions for the creation of engaging programming learning experiences. Finally, a web-based tool was designed to make the Learning Dimensions accessible to educators. This tool has been used to evaluate one further workshop.

This thesis consolidates several threads of research into a learner-centred approach to learning to program. The Learning Dimensions identify important areas of decision-making to be considered when designing a learning experience. They support the assertion that factors outwith the content can significantly affect success in programming. The complex interplay between different skills associated with computer programming will remain a challenge to learners. When placed in a rich context that fits the learner well and supports the learning aims, many of these difficulties can be overcome. The Learning Dimensions draw together positive features of a learning experience that are key to ensuring learners have the best possible opportunity to engage with and succeed with computer programming.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorJanet Hughes (Supervisor)


  • Education
  • Programming
  • Motivation
  • Arduino

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