seniors agreed less with faculty than
CS1 students were in cluster 2. Compared to CS1 students, fewer seniors
believed “real-world” CS requires creativity (item 50); fewer believed that
either the reasoning skills of CS (item
60) or its theoretical concepts (item
22) were relevant to everyday life, and
(as we discussed), fewer still were intentionally reflective when solving CS
problems (item 44).
Overall, the average agreement between seniors and faculty was 67% for
cluster 1 and 63% for cluster 2, not very
different. But the average increase in
agreement with faculty, comparing
seniors with CS1 students, was 16 percentage points for cluster 1 and only
one percentage point for cluster 2. The
results suggest the curriculum falls
significantly short in helping students
develop the perspective that CS is an
The survey results and analysis suggest a number of challenges to the
curriculum in which the students and
faculty participated. Using one item
( 50) as an illustration, faculty must
consider ways to move students toward the idea that “The work you do
in computer science in the real world
requires a lot of creativity,” rather
than away from it. A next step could be
collecting longitudinal data from the
same students as they move through
the curriculum. Collecting data in key
courses at the beginning and end of a
semester would also be useful in separating the effects of selection from
the effects of courses themselves and
in zeroing in on the effectiveness of
courses intended to promote particular attitudes and beliefs.
Besides being important learning
targets in themselves, the attitudes
and beliefs explored here may also
be important in other ways. Studies
in university physics education show
that student attitudes and beliefs re-
late to performance on content as-
sessments. 1, 13 Studies in physics edu-
cation also show direct evidence of
selection, rather than a change in at-
titude, as more advanced students are
compared with beginners. This selec-
tion effect raises the possibility that
understanding student attitudes and
beliefs could be important in terms
of retention and understanding why
some groups are less well represented
than others in CS programs. Although
we did not collect data on gender, it is
possible that attitudes and trends dif-
fer for male and female students, and
that understanding them could help
address underrepresentation of wom-
en in CS.
An earlier report of these results ap-
peared in 2007 in the ACM SIGCSE Bul-
letin. 9 We thank Amer Diwan, Chris-
tian Doerr, Noah Finkelstein, Gary
Nutt, Steven Pollock, Bruce Sanders,
and Brian Shuckey for ideas, inspira-
tion, and assistance. This project was
an activity of the President’s Teaching
and Learning Collaborative (http://
www.colorado.edu/ptsp/ptlc/) of the
University of Colorado.
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Clayton Lewis ( firstname.lastname@example.org) is a
professor in the department of computer science at the
university of colorado at boulder.
Michele h. Jackson (michele.jackson@colorado.
edu) is an associate professor in the department of
communication at the university of colorado at boulder.
William M. Waite ( email@example.com) is a
professor emeritus in the department of electrical,
computer, and energy engineering at the university of
colorado at boulder.