Archive for March 11, 2019

Open Research Questions from the CS Education Research class, February 2019

Each time I teach the CS Education Research class, we have one session where we brainstorm the questions that this class thinks are interesting and still open (see 2017 edition here and 2015 edition here). This is my first time teaching the class at the University of Michigan. It’s a joint undergraduate and graduate class. We have 22 students total (11 from each of undergrad/grad) — which is terrific for a special topics class on education research!

We put up five terms on the white board as seeds for the questions. Questions were placed strategically near a given term or between two terms. I can’t represent between very well here, so I’m going to organize questions in terms of the closest term (by my eyeball of the photos I took of the whiteboards) and close to the bottom/top of the list to suggest connection to next/prior.

These questions are amazing — I’m really impressed by the insights about what’s interesting, quality of questions, and breadth of topics. #proudTeacher

Community of Practice/Identity

Is there a difference in climate between liberal arts and engineering based CS? Does that climate impact diversity?

What factors make near-peer mentors more effective?

Is there a correlation in “defensive climate” in other subjects with factors like % of male faculty, % minorities in the field, etc.?

How can we get CS educators to change their practices?

How does having diverse/representative course staff impact student attitudes about CS and retention in CS classes/degrees?

How do initiatives of active learning bridge the communities of students learning CS from different backgrounds?

How do visually impaired programmers become part of the larger community of programming practice?

How does the ordering of topics in an Informatics-centric CS1 vs. a CS-centric CS1 effect performance on a pseudocode test of overlapping concepts?

Development (cognitive, learning trajectories, teacher, etc.)

Would question proofing before posting on Piazza increase frequency of questions posted and in turn motivate help-seeking behavior?

How do non-CS majors develop their knowledge and practice of debugging?

How does the interest of a lecturer impact how students learn within the course? Should we force tenure-track professors to teach who don’t want to teach? Can student lecturers make the same impact on student learning and attitudes as professional lecturers and/or tenure-track faculty?

Cognitive/Learning Sciences

What are effect of class sizes and teaching methods on CS student learning?

Does teacher belief that their students have (or don’t have) a “Geek Gene” affect student performance?

How do the language learned in CS classes and their relevancy in industry affect retention rate (if at all)?

What is the best programming language for introduction to CS, and how would you define “best”?

Do we want to teach everyone computer science or computational thinking?

Would subgoal-labeled assertion-evidence slides improve student retention in an introductory data structures course?

Empirically, how does increasing the emphasis on reading code (vs primarily writing code) affect student learning? Does a focus on reading make the fMRI distinction on reading prose or reading code decrease faster (that is, with less experience as a function of time)?

What metaphors in teaching lead to the most successful learning of notional machines? What metaphors do students invent, and which lead to the most successful learning of notional machines?

What is the role of communicating the redesign of a CS1 for recruitment (matriculation) and retention? If you improve your CS1 and you tell prospective students that you changed it, does that change recruitment or retention? Or do prior attitudes/opinions outweigh the re-design?

How can we better understand students’ mental models of notional machines?

How do measure student disconnect in MOOCs?

How can we integrate lecture videos with student hands-on practice in data science or programming MOOCs?


Does engagement on Piazza (common on-line discussion forum) impact CS student performance?

Should course staff promote discussions or start discussions on Piazza? Are benefits to students different if it’s staff starting the discussions or students?

How does national or state standardization of CS class topics or curriculum effect enrollment rates and diversity in high school CS classes?

How do parents’ education level/career influence student choices in CS, e.g. ,to take a CS class, to get a CS degree, to seek a CS job, etc.?

Do students with learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia) view code differently? Could we use fMRI or eye tracking to measure this?

Why don’t more lower-income students go into CS? What percentage of current CS students are lower-income? How many lower-income students have the opportunity to learn CS and don’t take it?


What would it cost to implement a CS program in all high schools in Michigan?

March 11, 2019 at 7:00 am 12 comments

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