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Pair programming improves student retention, confidence, and program quality


Pair programming, when used as a form of collaborative learning, has been shown to increase the number of women (and men) persisting in their previously stated intent to pursue degrees in computer science. In addition, paired teams have been found to significantly outperform individual programmers in terms of program functionality and readability, to report greater satisfaction with the problem-solving process, to have greater confidence in their solutions, and to be more likely to complete a programming assignment. Nevertheless, many instructors continue to require students to complete programming assignments independently. Presumably, continued reliance on solo programming in academic settings is rooted in instructor concern that at least one of the partners in a pair will not learn as much as they would if they completed the assignment alone. In the worst case, one member of the pair might do essentially all of the work.

We investigated the effects of pair programming on student performance and subsequent pursuit of computer science related degrees among both female and male college students taking an introductory programming course designed for computer science related majors (computer science, computer engineering, and information systems management). The results of this study provide some of the most compelling evidence to date of the effectiveness of pair programming as a pedagogical tool.

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