Work-in-Progress: Research Plan for Introducing Problem Solving Skills through Activities to an Introductory Computer Science Course
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This work-in-progress research plan paper describes the process of developing and planning an introductory computer science course utilizing fundamental problem-solving skills in combination with hands-on visual activities to explain various Computer Science (CS) concepts. Problem solving skills, as observed by the authors of the paper, are challenging for students across multiple STEM disciplines, but those who develop these skills perform better within their STEM courses. The authors hypothesize that introduction of these skills within a first-year computer science course will benefit a student’s successful completion of a STEM degree and their future STEM career . The goal of this research is to integrate fundamental problem-solving skills into the existing course material and in-class activities. The research project will use two-sections of the same course taught during the same semester with approximately 200 students in each section. Nine hands-on activities, each covering a fundamental programming concept, were created to explain these concepts to students with a visual, real-world component. Both sections will cover the same computer science material, but some activities will be different between the two sections to allow for comparison of performance. There are nine planned activities: three will be performed with both sections; three will be performed only in section 1; and the remaining three will be performed only in section 2. Student performance on exams and programming assignments for these topics will be same and compared across both courses. This paper details the similarities and differences between the two sections of the course in terms of setup, activities planned, targeted problem- solving skills, and learning objectives. Additionally, the paper explains the evaluation plan and assessment tools/ measures to be used (including pre- and post-surveys and assessment of student performance).