Towards The Use Of A Novel Method: The First Experiences On Measuring The Cognitive Load Of Learned Programming Skills

Murat Pas UYSAL

Teaching object-oriented programming (OOP) is a difficult task, especially to the beginners. First-time learners also find it difficult to understand. Although there is a considerable amount of study on the cognitive dimension, a few study points out its physiological meaning. Moreover, it has been suggested that neuroscientific studies and methods can enable educational researchers gain an insight into brain and cognitive processes as well. Therefore, this experimental study explored the previously learned OOP skills in terms of cognitive load. By using the functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) method, we measured the cognitive load of participants when executing OOP tasks. The average oxygenation changes in prefrontal cortex of the brain represented their total cognitive response to a set of OOP tasks. There were two research questions investigated by this study. The first research question explored whether the average oxygenation changed according to the participants’ academic achievements and task completion status. The second research question was for identifying the instant changes in the oxygenations to find out which programming tasks were more contributing to the oxygenation. Later, we compared the findings with experts’ judgments. We observed that the fNIRS system was an effective and promising technology for monitoring cognitive tasks both in classrooms and in experimental environments.

KEYWORDS: Cognitive Load, Object-oriented Programming, fNIR Spectroscopy.