Role and value of quantitative instruments in gauging student perspectives in a computing curriculum

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Conference Proceeding

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From our perspective, introductory courses generally represent a blend of elements, such as: • practice with problem solving (perhaps with programming as a mechanism to help students make their solutions precise), • coverage of technical elements and details (perhaps with an emphasis on proficiency in some programming language), • preparation for later courses (e.g., experience with control structures and simple data structures for intermediate level computing courses or experience in C for engineering or physics), • overview of the scope of the discipline (sometimes called a "breadth-first perspective"), • connections with one or more application areas (sometimes discussed as making computing relevant), • identification of social and ethical issues of computing (e.g., placing computing in a broad framework), • clarification of what it means to be a computing professional (e.g., what do computing folks actually do), • shaping of attitudes and perspectives on the computing discipline (e.g., correcting misconceptions or developing a sense of professionalism). Further, students often enter college with pre-conceived notions of what the field of computing entails, and unfortunately many of these images are misguided. For example, many incoming students seem to believe that computing primarily involves some combination of surfing the Web, hacking, and playing video games. Their expectations of the study habits and learning techniques that would make them successful at their intended major are also spread across the spectrum. In this special session, we will discuss the role and value of quantitative instruments in gauging student perspectives in the context of these issues. After creating the appropriate context (section 2), we will discuss the road educators have travelled in creating such instruments (section 3) as well as review one based on a variation of a survey developed by the University of Maryland Physics Education Research Group (section 4). Finally, we will present the importance of gathering this information (for curriculum design) from the perspective of grant agencies (section 5). After the presentation of the four speakers and before the start of our general discussion, we will invite our audience members to fill out the survey form for a particular instrument. If we are collectively on the same page, then our responses may be used to establish a baseline to which students progress can be compared.

Publication Name

SIGCSE'11 - Proceedings of the 42nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education

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