Other items in cluster 2. Like some
of the “other” items in cluster 1, items
26 and 58 in this group might have
been expected to appear in one of the
subclusters but did not. They show
only middling agreement between seniors and faculty, with agreement by
seniors greater than by CS1 students.
For item 48 (“There are times I solve a
computer science problem more than
one way to help my understanding”),
seniors agreed with faculty significantly more than CS1 students agreed
Item 4 (“Nearly everyone is capable
of succeeding in the computer science
curriculum if they work at it”) reflects
an interesting situation. Faculty consensus rejects Dweck’s view7 that effort is the key to success, but most seniors do not reject this attitude, only a
few more than among CS1 students.
For someone agreeing with Dweck, it’s
good that student views on the value
of effort aren’t changed much. It’s
also interesting that seniors wrongly
believed faculty endorse Dweck’s position, with 88% of seniors indicating
that faculty would want them to agree
with the item.
The data further suggests that item
4 was not very strongly related to any of
the other items in the survey. Despite
falling in cluster 2 in the hierarchical-clustering results, it is the item in that
cluster that is least closely related to
the other items.
Top-level clusters. The hierarchical
cluster analysis revealed two clear categories in the data, and a review of the
items in each cluster showed them to
be meaningful groupings. The groups
suggest that students conceptualize
CS in two distinct ways: The first is
“CS as accomplishment,” in which the
emphasis is on outcomes and what it
takes to reach them, including skill,
technical expertise, programming
knowledge, and resources (books,
peers, teachers). The second is “CS as
intellectual discipline,” in which the
emphasis is on how CS offers a way to
approach and understand the world,
including how to reason, gain understanding and deep learning, appreciate the importance of creativity, and
dwell on problems to be able to explore
them fully. This intellectual-discipline
view is very much the perspective on
the field emphasized by Wing17 in her
consider ways to
toward the idea that
“the work you do in
in the real world
requires a lot of
than away from it.
work on computational thinking.
The fact that these two clusters
emerged from the data is important.
Interestingly, earlier research discussed a similar contrast between accomplishment and creativity in engineering. 3, 14, 10 It is possible that the two
perspectives—CS as accomplishment
and CS as intellectual discipline—
could be in tension with one another.
How might they be reconciled or otherwise aligned?
We can revisit some of the data reviewed earlier and consider how it reflects on these perspectives. Seniors
were in conflict with faculty on two
items in cluster 1, and the responses
from CS1 and CS2 students were similar. First, seniors believed that wait-ing until the last minute is acceptable
if you have the know-how (item 66).
Second, they believed that getting the
desired result is more important than
how you get there (item 20). These results directly confirm the findings of
earlier research, 8, 15, 16 highlighting the
emphasis on accomplishment at the
expense of other considerations that
might be important to faculty or to effective learning.
In cluster 2 there was conflict with
faculty on item 44 (“When I solve a
computer science problem, I explicitly
think about which computer science
ideas apply to the problem”). Faculty
and CS1 students agreed that they intentionally reflect on which CS ideas
apply to the problem they are trying
to solve. Less than half of seniors
claimed to do so. This, too, supports
the view of CS as competence, where
skill is the application of knowledge,
rather than a type of reasoning or discipline. This item ( 44) was the one
with the greatest difference between
CS1 students and seniors, in the negative direction.
The only other conflicting item is
potentially troubling if we are concerned with access to the CS major.
Faculty did not endorse the statement
that anyone could succeed at CS if
they worked at it (item 4); students in
all groups consistently disagreed with
faculty on this.
Looking at differences between seniors and CS1 students with respect to
their agreement with faculty, with the
exception of item 54, on the importance of reading, all items for which