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  1. Recent research in computing has shown that student performance on prerequisite course content varies widely, even when students continue to progress further through the computing curriculum. Our work investigates instructors' perspectives on the purpose of prerequisite courses and whether that purpose is being fulfilled. In order to identify the range of instructor views, we interviewed twenty-one computer science instructors, at two institutions, that teach a variety of courses in their respective departments. We conducted a phenomenographic analysis on the interview transcripts, which revealed a wide variety of views on prerequisite courses. The responses shed light on various issues with prerequisite course knowledge, as well as issues around responsibility and conflicting pressures on instructors. These issues arise at the department level, as well as with individual course offerings.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 2, 2024
  2. Incremental development is the process of writing a small snippet of code and testing it before moving on. For students in introductory programming courses, the value of incremental development is especially higher as they may suffer from more syntax errors, lack the proficiency to address complicated bugs, and may be more prone to frustration when struggling to correct code. However, to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions that aim to teach programming processes such as incremental development, we need to develop measures to assess such processes. In this paper, we present a way to measure incremental development. By qualitatively analyzing 15 student coding interviews, we identified common behaviors in the programming process that relate to incremental development. We then leveraged a dataset of over 1000 development sessions -- about 52,000 code snapshots at compilation time -- to automatically detect the common behaviors identified in our qualitative analysis. Finally, we crafted a formal metric, called the ``Measure of Incremental Development’' (MID), to quantify how effectively a student used incremental development during a programming session. The MID detects common non-incremental development patterns such as excessive debugging after large additions of code to automatically assess a sequence of snapshots. The MID aligns with humanmore »evaluations of incrementality with over 80% accuracy. Our metric enables new research directions and interventions focused on improving students' development practices.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available January 1, 2024
  3. Previous work in computing has shown that Black, Latinx, Native American and Pacific islander (BLNPI), women, first-generation, and transfer students tend to have worse outcomes during their time in university compared to their majority counterparts. Previous work has also found that students' incoming prerequisite course proficiency is positively correlated with their outcomes in a course. In this work, we investigate the role that prerequisite course proficiency has on outcomes between these groups of students. Specifically, we examine incoming prerequisite course proficiency in an Advanced Data Structures course. When comparing incoming prerequisite course proficiency between demographic pairs, we only see small differences for gender or by first-generation status. There is a sizeable difference by BLNPI status, although this difference is not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of BLNPI students. In addition, we find that transfer students have sizeable and statistically significantly lower prerequisite course proficiency when compared to non-transfer students. For BLNPI and transfer students, we find that they also have lower grades in the prerequisite courses, which may partially explain their lower prerequisite course proficiency. These findings suggest that institutions need to find ways to better serve BLNPI and transfer students.