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Beyond Program Understanding: A Look at Programming Expertise in Industry

Berlin, Lucy M.

HPL-92-142

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Abstract: In the computer industry, expert programmers must often relearn parts of their craft as they retool themselves to new computer languages, programming environments, software frameworks and systems. Our study of consulting interactions between these apprentices and experts has given insights into this collaborative work practice and into the knowledge gaps of programmers in a new environment. In this paper we characterize the apprenticeship interactions we observed, the skills experts use in collaborative problem solving, the hard-to-find information they emphasize, and the tutoring skills they exhibit. The observations also indirectly suggest the multi- faceted knowledge required for real-life programming expertise, and the knowledge and skills that make experts so much more effective in their daily work.

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