In this paper we describe how we refined our instruction to create a more constructivist classroom setting for learning programming skills as applied to engineering analysis. In the context of our course, programming skills are important to help students develop engineering "habits of mind" such as how to break a large complex problem into manageable parts, how to isolate effects, test, and debug problems. The paper presents the rationale for refining the instruction, the method for collecting data on the impact of the changes, and results from our data collection. Results indicate that the new instructional format is effective in helping novice students understand Matlab to solve engineering analysis problems. Furthermore, student feedback indicates that the instructional setting modeled the central features of a constructivist learning environment.