Assessing Concept Knowledge in Introductory Computer Science
A primary goal of many computer science education projects is to determine the extent to which a given instructional intervention has had an impact on student outcomes. However, valid and reliable assessment instruments that measure the desired goals and outcomes across different platforms are not currently available. We are developing an assessment instrument to measure student learning outcomes of fundamental concepts in introductory programming courses, in a manner that is not specific to a particular language. The validity and reliability of the resultant instrument is being demonstrated through extensive testing.
Developing Regional Communities of Computing Educators – Disciplinary Commons of Computing Educators (DCCE)
We are exploring a pathway to revitalize undergraduate computing education through developing a regional community of computing educators, focusing on fostering innovative academic partnerships among varied levels of computing educators. The DCCE is aimed at developing a statewide community of computing educators, selected from both the secondary and collegiate levels, who hold common interests in computing education and share goals of innovating in their practice. Action research is being used as a vehicle for encouraging investigation, reflection, and discussion of practice, with the research staff providing assessment support as needed.
Media Computation Approach to Introductory CS
For computer scientists to embrace the challenge of offering education for everyone, computing education must be relevant, creative, and social. To meet this challenge, we developed and are studying a set of courses using media as a context to motivate the study of introductory computer science topics. "Introduction to Media Computation" is an introductory course in computing whose focus is on learning to program in order to manipulate media. "Representing Structure and Behavior" is the second course in the sequence that continues to use media as a context where students explore data structures, computational models, and simulations.
- Tew, A.E., Fowler, C. and Guzdial, M. (2005) Tracking an innovation in introductory CS education from a research university to a two-year college. Proceedings of the 36th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, (St. Louis, MO), ACM Press, 416-420. (PDF)
Introductory Computer Science Understanding
Computer science has long debated what to teach in the introductory course of the discipline, and leaders in our field have argued that the introductory course approach is critical to student development. We are beginning an investigation of the impact of alternative approaches to introductory computing by considering the questions of what students bring to their second class in computing and how the outcomes differ depending on the students’ alternative first course. Our preliminary study showed significant differences in understanding of introductory concepts, such as iteration, conditionals, and arrays, at the beginning of the second course. However, by the end of the second course their understanding had converged.
- Tew, A.E., McCracken, W.M. and Guzdial, M. (2005) Impact of alternative introductory courses on programming concept understanding. Proceedings of the First International Computing Education Research Workshop, (Seattle, WA), 25-35. (PDF)
Scaffolding Research in Computer Science Education
The Scaffolding project was designed as a hands-on 'way in' to high-quality CS Education research for Computer Science higher-education faculty. Supported by a major grant from the National Science Foundation and by Washington State's newly established Institute of Technology at the University of Washington, Tacoma. Scaffolding used a workshop format to bring practitioners and expert researchers together in order to initiate principled, large-scale teaching and learning research. Key objectives of the project were:
- to improve the state of Computer Science education research-and thereby ultimately to improve the state of CS education-by developing skills, in the design, conduct and management of research, of Computer Science educators and by exposing them to relevant theory and methods, and
- to facilitate the establishment of research relationships that extend beyond the duration of the workshops, contributing to a research community able to sustain a constructive discourse as well as ongoing collaboration.
- Tenenberg, J., Fincher, S., Blaha, K., Bouvier, D., Chen, T.-Y., Chinn, D., Cooper, S., Eckerdal, A., Johnson, H., McCartney, R., Monge, A., Moström, J. E., Petre, M., Powers, K., Ratcliffe, M., Robins, A., Sanders, D., Schwartzman, L., Simon, B., Stoker, C., Tew, A. E., & VanDeGrift, T. (2005). Students designing software: A multi-national, multi-institutional study. Informatics in Education, 4, 143-162. (PDF)