Contesting sociocomputational norms: Computer programming instructors and students’ stancetaking around refactoring

Morgan M. Fong, David DeLiema, Virginia J. Flood, Oia Walker van Aalst

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Working solutions to problems are not definitive end points. As a result, code that is technically correct can still be treated as needing revising – a practice in computer programming known as refactoring. We document how late elementary to middle school students and their undergraduate instructors weigh the possibility of refactoring working code in an informal summer computer science workshop. We examined a 20-min stretch of classroom activity in which multiple coding approaches were explicitly evaluated as alternative routes to the same code output. Our theoretical framework draws on the stance triangle, amplifying and attenuating inequity, and an extension of sociomathematical norms. Using the method of interaction analysis, we transcribed and analyzed stretches of talk, gesture, and action during whole class dicourse and small group interactions involving 4–6 students. We investigated how instructors and students introduced, characterized, applied, and contested sociocomputational norms through stancetaking in classroom discourse, which shaped whose voices contributed to the discussion and whose ideas were treated as impactful and praiseworthy in the classroom. Because it is within these discourse spaces that instructors and students interpret and reinterpret sociocomputational norms about what is valued in programming approaches, educational researchers and teachers might attend to these conversation dynamics as one route to fostering more supportive and inclusive learning spaces.

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under grant nos. 1612770, 1607742, and 1612660. We wish to express deep gratitude to the students and educators who collaborated on this research. Our CSCL reviewers also provided generative feedback during the peer review process, and we wish to thank them for their contributions. We are also grateful for the time that Geoffrey Herman, Colleen Lewis, members of our NSF advisory board, and UMN graduate students in the “Debugging Failure” course gave to share their helpful feedback on early analyses and drafts of this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, International Society of the Learning Sciences, Inc.


  • Computer science education
  • Inequity
  • Interaction analysis
  • Refactoring
  • Sociocomputational norms
  • Stance


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