Parsons Problems and Beyond: Systematic Literature Review and Empirical Study Designs

Conference Paper

Programming is a complex task that requires the development of many skills including knowledge of syntax, problem decomposition, algorithm development, and debugging. Code-writing activities are commonly used to help students develop these skills, but the difficulty of writing code from a blank page can overwhelm many novices. Parsons problems offer a simpler alternative to writing code by providing scrambled code blocks that must be placed in the correct order to solve a problem. In the 16 years since their introduction to the computing education community, an expansive body of literature has emerged that documents a range of tools, novel problem variations and makes numerous claims of benefits to learners. In this work, we track the origins of Parsons problems, outline their defining characteristics, and conduct a comprehensive review of the literature to document the evidence of benefits to learners and to identify gaps that require exploration. To facilitate future work, we design empirical studies and develop associated resources that are ready for deployment at a large scale. Collectively, this review and the provided experimental resources will serve as a focal point for researchers interested in advancing our understanding of Parsons problems and their benefits to learners.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ericson, BJ; Denny, P; Prather, J; Duran, R; Hellas, A; Leinonen, J; Miller, CS; Morrison, BB; Pearce, JL; Rodger, SH

Published Date

  • December 27, 2022

Published In

Start / End Page

  • 191 - 234

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1942-647X

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9798400700101

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1145/3571785.3574127

Citation Source

  • Scopus