Pair Programming – A Look at Students Sharing a Computer

Pair Programming in Scratch, University of California, Berkeley
Pair Programming in Scratch, University of California, Berkeley

With the Hour of Code approaching during Computer Science Education Week, December 7-13, it’s a good time to explore Pair Programming and how this style of learning may benefit our students in all academic areas. Benefits appear to include:

  • More active learning
  • Less frustration
  • More confidence

Pair Programming is not dividing the job in half, with each partner doing only part of the work. Picture two programmers working together at one computer, collaborating on the same design. The programmer with the keyboard is often referred to as the driver and the partner is the navigator. Both are continually brainstorming and discussing, but the navigator has the advantage of sitting back and looking at the whole picture, asking clarifying questions, or seeing potential pitfalls. By switching roles, the work is shared and both programmers have an equal opportunity to contribute. The result is that the programming is accomplished with fewer problems and, in educational settings, the students appear happier and to be learning as much if not more than their solitary counterparts.

When considering implementing Pair Programming, think about:

  • Students often need to practice this style of work under teacher supervision to make sure students develop the habit of working together and not dividing the work.
  • It may be best to pair students of like ability instead of pairing a strong student with a weaker student.
  • An assignment for a pair should be more difficult that what would be given a student working on their own

Many videos about this subject appear when you search for Pair Programming on YouTube and I’ve listed a few below. I think you’ll find the videos about this concept interesting and may find ways to use this style in many academic situations. Please let me know if you give this a try.


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