What is it about?

Many introductory computer science courses ask students to work in pairs on some assignments to promote their learning and improve the work that they produce. A great deal of previous research has examined this pair programming approach, but these studies often cannot determine whether pair programming is responsible for shaping student outcomes. This study used random assignment to provide strong evidence about how pair programming affects students’ course grades as well as their feelings about and interest in computer science.

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Why is it important?

Contrary to most previous research, this study shows that pair programming in three introductory courses does not affect student outcomes. There are many ways to implement pair programming, so this practice may be effective in other circumstances. However, instructors and departments cannot assume that pair programming is a good approach, even when recommended best practices are followed.


This paper is part of a broader trend to rigorously test how postsecondary practices, programs, and policies affect students, which sometimes challenges mainstream views about “what works” in higher education. While this study found that pair programming generally did not affect students' outcomes in this study, other research has shown that collaborative learning activities can benefit college students' learning and success.

Nicholas Bowman
University of Iowa

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The Impact of Pair Programming on College Students’ Interest, Perceptions, and Achievement in Computer Science, ACM Transactions on Computing Education, May 2021, ACM (Association for Computing Machinery),
DOI: 10.1145/3440759.
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