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A Student's View of Concurrency: A Study of Common Mistakes in Introductory Courses on Concurrency
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, Software and Systems. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-0556-6893
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, Artificial Intelligence and Integrated Computer Systems. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, Software and Systems. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1916-3398
Linköping University, Department of Computer and Information Science, Software and Systems. Linköping University, Faculty of Science & Engineering.
2019 (English)In: Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research, New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2019, p. 229-237Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

This paper investigates common misconceptions held by students regarding concurrency in order to better understand how concurrency education can be improved in the future. As a part of the exam in two courses on concurrency and operating systems, students were asked to identify and eliminate any concurrency issues in a piece of code as a part of their final exam. Different types of mistakes were identified and the 216 answers were sorted into categories accordingly. The results presented in this paper show that while most students were able to identify the cause of an issue given its symptoms, only approximately half manage to successfully eliminate the concurrency issues. Many of the incorrect solutions fail to associate shared data with a synchronization primitive, e.g. using one lock to protect multiple instances of a data structure, or multiple locks to protect the same instance in different situations. This suggests that students may not only have trouble dealing with concepts related to concurrency, but also more fundamental concepts related to the underlying computational model. Finally, this paper proposes possible explanations for the students' mistakes in terms of improper mental models, and suggests types of problems that highlight the issues with these mental models to improve students' understanding of the subject.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), 2019. p. 229-237
Keywords [en]
computer science education, concurrency, mental models, synchronization
National Category
Computer and Information Sciences Learning
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-159683DOI: 10.1145/3291279.3339415ISBN: 978-1-4503-6185-9 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-159683DiVA, id: diva2:1365102
Conference
International Computing Education Research, Toronto ON, Canada, August 12 - 14, 2019
Available from: 2019-08-17 Created: 2019-10-23 Last updated: 2019-10-16Bibliographically approved

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Strömbäck, FilipMannila, LindaAsplund, MikaelKamkar, Mariam
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