Analyze That! Very Preliminary Results

What questions do people who teach computing most want computing education researchers to investigate? A few months ago, Brett Becker, Michelle Craig, Paul Denny, and Greg Wilson decided to find out. Inspired by Begel and Zimmermann’s “Analyze This! 145 Questions for Data Scientists in Software Engineering”, we contacted several hundred people through mailing lists, discussion forums, and other channels, then divided them at random into two groups. One group proposed questions, which we sorted and merged. The second group then ranked those questions from “very unimportant” and “unimportant” through “indifferent” to “important” and “very important”. We still have a lot of analysis to do, so this list may change, but here are the ten questions that most people thought were most important:

  1. What kinds of problems do students in programming classes find most engaging?
  2. What are the key concepts that students need to understand in introductory computing classes?
  3. What fundamental programming concepts are the most challenging for students?
  4. How can we teach students how to deconstruct programming problems?
  5. What kinds of programming exercises are most effective when teaching students Computer Science?
  6. What teaching practices are most effective for teaching computing to children?
  7. What teaching strategies are most effective when dealing with a wide range of prior experience in introductory programming classes?
  8. How and when is it best to give students feedback on their code to improve learning?
  9. What are the relative merits of project-based learning, lecturing, and active learning for students learning computing?
  10. What affects students’ ability to generalize from simple programming examples?

We put all 284 questions into 11 categories before we started analysis. (The categories weren’t shown to the second-round respondents who did the rankings.) All of the top 10 questions fall under the headings “Student Behavior”, “Student Understanding”, “Pedagogy (Computing)” and “Pedagogy (General)”; to our surprise, nothing in the categories “Languages and Tools”, “Curriculum”, and “Inclusivity” made the top 10.

We hope to finish our analysis early in the new year, after which we will share a sanitized copy of our data. Please keep an eye on our various blogs and Twitter accounts for news.

Cross-posted with Brett Becker.

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