To-do list from SIGCSE 2019

The timing of SIGCSE (the technical symposium for ACM’s special interest group on computer science education) as midway through the Spring semester is a nice lead-in for course revisions that might happen over the summer for the next year, but the trick is to actually remember those intended revisions. There’s also so much one can take away from SIGCSE that I’ve committed to, each time I attend, identifying three manageable things I can do to follow up from the conference in the coming year.

Top of the list is a revision to my OO programming course inspired by Prather et al’s paper “First Things First: Providing Metacognitive Scaffolding for Interpreting Problem Prompts” (ACM Digital Library: They demonstrated how working test cases before beginning to program can help with successful program completion (and, tangentially, that re-reading the problem prompt does not have a similar positive effect). I already instruct students to work through a few given test-cases by hand for most of the assignments I give, and I also give daily “preparation quizzes” due before class through our CMS. This fall, I’m going to try having the quiz for the next class session after an assignment is distributed require students to work through a test case for the assignment by hand. I particularly like how this takes things I’m already doing and makes them work together to hopefully get real benefit for my students without much additional work on my part beyond what I’m already doing.

My prior Screenshot entry was about the importance of students being open to learning from their failures or missteps, so the “Rethinking Debugging as Productive Failure for CS Education” panel (ACM Digital Library: resonated with so much of what I’ve been thinking about and discussing with colleagues in my department. There were a lot of good suggestions, but one that I want to try out next year (and part of this will be figuring out the right place for this) is asking students to journal about their goals around debugging and their personal process of debugging. I’m leaning towards introducing this in my CS0-style game design course to get students reflecting on how they respond to programming errors early.

Finally, I had some great conversations with many of the people who’ve been involved in the SIGCSE Committee on Computing Education in Liberal Arts Colleges. Our final report should be appearing soon, but I’m looking forward to continuing to work with this group over the coming year and hopefully help organize a session/workshop for SIGCSE 2020 that will start addressing some of the needs of the liberal arts computing education community that the report identifies.

Making a note to myself to check in on how I’ve done with these projects before heading off to Portland next March!

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