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Recent empirical results suggest that the instructional material used to teach computing may actually overload students' cognitive abilities. Better designed materials may enhance learning by reducing unnecessary load. Subgoal labels have been shown to be effective at reducing the cognitive load during problem solving in both mathematics and science. Until now, subgoal labels have been given to students to learn passively. We report on a study to determine if giving learners subgoal labels is more or less effective than asking learners to generate subgoal labels within an introductory CS programming task. The answers are mixed and depend on other features of the instructional materials. We found that student performance gains did not replicate as expected in the introductory CS task for those who were given subgoal labels. Computer science may require different kinds of problem-solving or may generate different cognitive demands than mathematics or science.


Published by ACM in the Proceedings of the Eleventth Annual Conference on International Computing Education Research, on August 09, 2015, and can be accessed at