AIM Research – To Read or To Rotate? Comparing the Effects of Technical Reading Training and Spatial Skills Training on Novice Programming Ability

October 24 @ 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm EDT

AIM Research


Join us for AIM Research, where we host speakers working with data analytics and research to share their knowledge and engage with the University of Michigan research and learning analytics community. The field of learning analytics is a multi- and interdisciplinary field that brings together researchers from education, the learning sciences, computational sciences and statistics, and all discipline-specific forms of educational inquiry. Event details are listed below and registration is required. This virtual event will be hosted on Zoom. 

AIM Research: To Read or To Rotate? Comparing the Effects of Technical Reading Training and Spatial Skills Training on Novice Programming Ability

  • Westley Weimer, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering
  • Madeline Endres, PhD Candidate, Computer Science & Engineering

Abstract: Understanding how to best support and train novice programmers is a critical component of producing better and more diverse software engineers. In this talk, we’ll present a 11-week longitudinal study with 57 CS1 students comparing two skill-based interventions to improve programming performance. The first intervention involves spatial training, an established baseline known to be helpful in engineering contexts. The second intervention is a novel CS-focused technical reading training. We first replicate findings that both reading ability and spatial ability correlate with programming success. Significantly, however, we find that those in our reading training exhibit larger programming ability gains than those in the standard spatial training (? = 0.02, ?^2 = 0.10). We also find that reading trained participants perform particularly well on programming problems that require tracing through code (? = 0.03, ?^2 = 0.10). Our results suggest that technical reading training could be beneficial for novice programmers. Finally, we discuss the implications of our results for future CS1 interventions, the possibility for non-programming based training to positively impact developers, and future directions for software engineering education research.

The Center for Academic Innovation (CAI) is committed to ensuring that our meetings and events are accessible to all individuals. This event will be using Zoom. Please let us know how we can ensure that this event is inclusive to you. Contact Trevor Parnell, Marketing and Events Project Manager ( with any questions or access needs.

Join Zoom Meeting