By Samuel B. Fee, Washington & Jefferson College,
Amanda M. Holland-Minkley, Washington & Jefferson College and
Thomas E. Lombardi, University of the Virgin Islands
and Content in
CS education has increasingly adopted interdisciplinary approaches in recent years. There are many reasons for
this trend towards interdisciplinary computing education.
Interdisciplinary computing has been effective at increasing
student engagement overall and particularly been recognized
to be effective in broadening participation in computing
[ 12,24]. Educators increasingly provide computing
education to non-majors who will need to be effective users
of computational processes and consumers of algorithmic
output in the context of their own disciplines [ 28]. Indeed,
it is generally accepted that basic computational literacy is
a requirement of educated citizenry, with interdisciplinary
computing topics illustrating the inescapable social impact
of computing [ 16].
As practitioners of and advocates for interdisciplinary computing, we have had the opportunity to collaborate with educators pursing a breadth of approaches to teaching interdisciplinary computing [ 15]. Drawing on this work, we have been able
to classify these approaches into four major forms: introductory
courses with an interdisciplinary focus, interdisciplinary projects
embedded in CS courses, computing curricula designed around
interdisciplinarity, and interdisciplinary computing as taught by
other disciplines. We have also observed that, across these forms,
practitioners of interdisciplinary computing education have
widely adopted constructivist approaches to teaching computing in parallel to their incorporation of interdisciplinary content.
Briefly, these approaches focus on students actively building their
own knowledge, often through authentic problems.
Here, we will give some illustrative examples of the various
forms we have observed for interdisciplinary computing and
highlight the ways that these initiatives incorporate constructivist approaches.
FORMS FOR INTERDISCIPLINARY COMPUTING
Projects incorporating interdisciplinary content into CS education are taking many forms ranging from the course level to
the programmatic level and addressing both CS students and
non-major audiences. In this section, we will summarize some
of the most common approaches and demonstrate how a constructivist mindset underlies each of them. A constructivist
theory of learning, broadly speaking, includes learners as partners in obtaining and structuring knowledge and problem-solving abilities rather than serving as recipients of instructional
content. These learning approaches generally guide students to
correlate educational content to real-life experiences, such as
through experiential, active, or collaborative activities, to best
support their ability to conceptualize content [ 11]. Constructivist approaches include pedagogies such as cognitive apprenticeship, situated learning, active learning, project-based learning,
or problem-based learning.
CS0, CS1 AND OTHER INTRODUCTORY COURSES
Possibly the most visible venue for interdisciplinary CS content
has been at the introductory level. It is nearly commonplace
for CS0 courses to include applications of computing to other