Being able to program is considered an essential outcome of students’ computer science education. However, programming is almost universally regarded as a difficult part of the curriculum for many students, resulting in high failure rates. Therefore, the current research being conducted as the result of a teaching and learning grant at UniOZ aims to assess students’ coping levels when learning to program. This research-in-progress paper reports on pedagogical issues and design considerations leading to the production of a pilot questionnaire. Included are preliminary descriptive statistics exploring gender differences in perceived abilities to cope with learning to program and indicating relevance of the questionnaire items. The final questionnaire to be presented at the Conference will expand on research directions to assess individual students’ learning problems, and invite comment