Holistic approaches to computer science

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Conference Proceeding

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Computer science curricula has been well defined for many years through the publication of the Computer Science Curricula reports developed jointly by the two major professional societies, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society. These documents define computer science curricula by providing knowledge areas and course exemplars. The most recent curriculum report, the Computer Science Curricula 2013 (CSC13 [1]), provides 18 knowledge areas (KAs). Though it stresses that KAs do not necessary represent courses, computer science departments have traditionally created courses around the KAs. Indeed, the course exemplars presented in the CSC13 report, for the most part, center around KAs. This separation of concepts into courses introduces a number of deficiencies in a student's education. In particular, fields within computer science end up appearing to be silo-ed and students lack an understanding of interrelationship between sub-fields. For example, without a comprehension of interrelationships, students may fail to find or modify algorithms to meet efficiency constraints in real-world software. We can say that this deficiency is likely to be addressed after years of experience (or graduate school) but, as educators, it is important for us to address it in a more deliberate and timely fashion. A deliberate approach, for example, could be taken in a capstone course or project that requires students to draw upon concepts from several fields. Such a course, however, would come late in a student's development and would therefore be unlikely to fundamentally change a student's understanding of computer science. This panel will present holistic approaches to the cross-disciplinary problem that introduce students to the concept before their final year. Some of the approaches are integrated throughout the curriculum and some involve stand-alone courses, but every approach requires students to draw upon concepts from multiple KAs to solve problems. The panelists are from liberal arts institutions where cross-disciplinarity is prized and a natural part of the culture. Each panelist represents a different curricula approach that she or he will briefly describe before we engage the audience in a discussion of the problems, approaches, and experiences with providing holistic learning to students.

Publication Name

SIGCSE 2018 - Proceedings of the 49th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education

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