Selected Research Projects
Longitudinal Study of Student Knowledge Development and Retention
While recent assessment efforts have focused on meaningful evaluation of individual computer science courses, there is little research about how to gather useful information about how a curriculum, or series of courses, affects student knowledge development and retention. I am exploring a method for investigation using a longitudinal study of a focused stream of courses, where students' progress through this area is indicative of their progress overall, using the CS program at the University of British Columbia as a case study.
Computing Attitudes Survey
We are developing a new validated instrument designed to measure various facets of student attitudes and beliefs about learning computer science. Adapted from the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS), the Computing Attitudes Survey extends previous work by including similar items about problem solving and sense making while also being sure to address computing specific issues such as debugging and data representation. The Computing Attitudes Survey, which takes only ten minutes to complete, is designed to measure many areas of attitudes about CS and will be applicable for use with a broad population of students, both majors and non-majors alike.
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, the field of computing lacks valid and reliable assessment instruments for pedagogical or research purposes. I developed the Foundational CS1 (FCS1) Assessment instrument, the first assessment instrument for introductory computer science concepts that is applicable across a variety of current pedagogies and programming languages. I applied methods from educational and psychological test development, adapting them as necessary to fit the disciplinary context. I conducted think aloud interviews and a large scale empirical study to demonstrate that pseudo-code was an appropriate mechanism for achieving programming language independence. Finally, I established the validity of the assessment using a multi-faceted argument, combining interview data, statistical analysis of results on the assessment, and exam scores.
Elliott Tew, A.. and Guzdial, M. (2011) The FCS1: A language independent assessment of CS1 concepts. Proceedings of the 42nd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (Dallas, TX), 111-116. (PDF)
Elliott Tew, A. and Guzdial, M. (2010) Developing a validated assessment of fundamental CS1 concepts. Proceedings of the 41st SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (Milwaukee, WI), 91-101. (PDF)
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.
Ni, L., Guzdial, M., Elliott Tew, A., Morrison, B. and Galanos, R. (2011) Building a community to support HS CS teachers: The Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators. Proceedings of the 42nd SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education (Dallas, TX), 553-558. (PDF)
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)
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)