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“I like computers. I hate coding”: a portrait of two teens’ experiences

Paulina Haduong (Harvard Graduate School of Education, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 7 February 2019

Issue publication date: 10 June 2019




Some empirical evidence suggests that historically marginalized young people may enter introductory programming experiences with skepticism or reluctance, because of negative perceptions of the computing field. This paper aims to explore how learner identity and motivation can affect their experiences in an introductory computer science (CS) experience, particularly for young people who have some prior experience with computing. In this program, learners were asked to develop digital media artifacts about civic issues using Scratch, a block-based programming language.


Through participant observation as a teacher and designer of the course, artifact analysis of student-generated computer programs and design journals, as well as with two follow-up 1-h interviews, the author used the qualitative method of portraiture to examine how two reluctant learners experienced a six-week introductory CS program.


These learners’ experiences illuminate the ways in which identity, community and competence can play a role in supporting learner motivation in CS education experiences.

Research limitations/implications

As more students have multiple introductory computing encounters, educators need to take into account not only their perceptions of the computing field more broadly but also specific prior encounters with programming. Because of the chosen research approach, the research results may lack generalizability. Researchers are encouraged to explore other contexts and examples further.

Practical implications

This portrait highlights the need for researchers and educators to take into account student motivation in the design of learning environments.


This portrait offers a novel examination of novice programmer experiences through the choice in method, as well as new examples of how learner identity can affect student motivation.



The author wishes to thank Karen Brennan, Meredith Rowe, Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot and Gretchen Brion-Meisels for their guidance in developing this article, as well as the young people of C3P for their generosity and time. This work would not have been possible without close collaboration with Raquel Jimenez.


Haduong, P. (2019), "“I like computers. I hate coding”: a portrait of two teens’ experiences", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 120 No. 5/6, pp. 349-365.



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