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Ergonomics. 1996 Mar;39(3):461-81.

Expert-novice knowledge of computer programming at different levels of abstraction.

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Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Illinois at Chicago 60607, USA.


Computer programming knowledge can be classified into five levels of abstraction: objective, conceptual, functional, logical, and physical. An experiment was carried out to determine whether the mastering of knowledge at different levels of abstraction changed with the level of skill. Ten experts and ten novices in C computer programming participated in the experiment. The subjects' knowledge at the five levels of abstraction was tested through 20 multiple-choice questions. The experimental results indicated that knowledge differences between experts and novices at an abstract level or a concrete level depended on what abstract or concrete knowledge was implied. Experts had better abstract knowledge than novices at the conceptual and functional levels but not at the objective level. Experts had better concrete knowledge than novices at the physical level but not at the logical level. The classification of computer programming knowledge in levels of abstraction and the experimental results helped in clarifying a general finding from previous studies that experts had better abstract knowledge than novices.

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