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Computer Science Project Courses: Contrasting Students’ Experiences with Teachers’ Expectations
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Division of Computer Systems. Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Science and Technology, Mathematics and Computer Science, Department of Information Technology, Computer Systems. (UpCERG)
2010 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Including small or large project courses is widely recognized as important in preparing computer science students for a professional career. Typical examples are the capstone courses, which often are seen as the jewel in the crown since this is where students will bring their previous knowledge and skills together to show mastery of their craft. These courses are, however, quite complex with often contradictory ideas about how to actually run them in order to reach the learning objectives. This thesis deals with the contrast between students’ experiences and teachers’ expectations of such courses.

The research presented in this thesis contributes to the field of knowledge of computer science project courses by investigating processes that are of importance in relation to the desired practices that the students’ should experience.

A method is developed, based on the theory of communities of practice and an identification of key features in project work, for evaluating project courses in terms of setting up a learning environment suitable for its learning objectives. The method is focused on capturing the students’ experiences, which then are mapped onto desirable outcomes, as seen from the teachers’ point of view and expressed in terms of communities of practice theory. The result of the analysis is stories capturing the strengths and deficiencies that can be observed in computer science project courses.

Key findings are that rewarding learning environments are not automatically created by following the project model; unclear goals and priorities, for example the choice between focusing on the result of the project or the learning process, can confound, or hinder, the learning outcome. Students may experience a difficult choice between using the project course as a way to become more specialized in a particular area or to develop skills that broaden their knowledge.

The method developed throughout the thesis is a result in itself, allowing academics and institutions to reason systematically about the aims and learning outcomes of project coursework. The strength of the method lies in the insight gained from combining the concept of communities of practice with a series of studies that identify key features of project courses, in order to reveal and explain why students’ experience processes and learning outcomes in particular ways.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2010. , p. 189
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Science and Technology, ISSN 1651-6214 ; 722
Keywords [en]
computer science education, computer science student projects, computer science projects, computer science education research, phenomenography, learning, higher education, communities of practice, capstone projects, constructivism
National Category
Computer Sciences
Research subject
Computer Science with specialization in Computer Science Education Research
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-120081ISBN: 978-91-554-7741-7 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-120081DiVA, id: diva2:302515
Public defence
2010-04-16, Room 2446, Polacksbacken, Lägerhyddsvägen 2D, Uppsala, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2010-03-23 Created: 2010-03-06 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. “I Think it’s Better if Those Who Know the Area Decide About it: A Pilot Study Concerning Power in Student Project Groups in CS
Open this publication in new window or tab >>“I Think it’s Better if Those Who Know the Area Decide About it: A Pilot Study Concerning Power in Student Project Groups in CS
2006 (English)In: Proc. 6th Annual Finnish/Baltic Sea Conference on Computer Science Education: Koli Calling, 2006, p. 27-34Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Keywords
Student learning
National Category
Computer Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-20369 (URN)
Available from: 2007-09-25 Created: 2007-09-25 Last updated: 2018-01-12
2. Computer Science students' experiences of decision making in project groups
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Computer Science students' experiences of decision making in project groups
2007 (English)In: Proc. 7th Baltic Sea Conference on Computing Education Research: Koli Calling, 2007, p. 137-148Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-15664 (URN)978-1-920682-69-9 (ISBN)
Available from: 2008-06-30 Created: 2008-06-30 Last updated: 2010-03-08
3. Bridges and problem solving: Swedish engineering students' conceptions of engineering in 2007
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bridges and problem solving: Swedish engineering students' conceptions of engineering in 2007
2009 (English)In: Proc. 1st International Conference on Computer Supported Education: Volume 2 / [ed] Cordeiro J, Shishkov B, Verbraeck A, Helfert M, Institute for Systems and Technologies of Information, Control and Communication , 2009, p. 5-12Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Swedish engineering students' conceptions of engineering is investigated by a large nation-wide study in ten Swedish higher education institutions. Based on data from surveys and interviews, categories and top-lists, a picture of students conceptions of engineering is presented.

Students' conceptions of engineering, are somewhat divergent, but dealing with problems and their solutions and creativity are identified as core concepts. The survey data is in general more varied and deals with somewhat different kinds of terms. When explicitly asking for five engineering terms, as in the survey, a broader picture arises including terms, or concepts, denoting how students think of engineering and work in a more personal way. For example, words like hard work, stressful, challenging, interesting, and fun are used. On the other hand, it seems like the interviewed students tried to give more general answers that were not always connected to their personal experiences.

Knowledge on students' conceptions of engineering is essential for practitioners in engineering education. By information on students' conceptions, the teaching can approach students at their particular mindset of the engineering field. Program managers with responsibility for design of engineering programs would also benefit using information on students' conceptions of engineering. Courses could be motivated and contextualized in order to connect with the students. Recruitment officers would also have an easier time marketing why people should chose the engineering track.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institute for Systems and Technologies of Information, Control and Communication, 2009
National Category
Computer Sciences Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-103985 (URN)000267757200007 ()978-989-8111-82-1 (ISBN)
Conference
1st International Conference on Computer Supported Education Lisbon, PORTUGAL, MAR 23-26, 2009
Available from: 2009-05-26 Created: 2009-05-26 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
4. Reflecting on running large scale student collaboration projects
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reflecting on running large scale student collaboration projects
2008 (English)In: Proc. 38th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE , 2008, p. 1464-1468Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2008
National Category
Computer Sciences Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-103943 (URN)10.1109/FIE.2008.4720594 (DOI)000271669200341 ()978-1-4244-1969-2 (ISBN)
Available from: 2009-05-26 Created: 2009-05-26 Last updated: 2018-01-13Bibliographically approved
5. A method for analyzing learning outcomes in project courses
Open this publication in new window or tab >>A method for analyzing learning outcomes in project courses
2010 (English)In: Proc. 40th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, Piscataway, NJ: IEEE , 2010, p. T4H-1-2Conference paper, Published paper (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Piscataway, NJ: IEEE, 2010
National Category
Computer Sciences Didactics
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-120124 (URN)10.1109/FIE.2010.5673166 (DOI)978-1-4244-6261-2 (ISBN)
Available from: 2010-03-08 Created: 2010-03-08 Last updated: 2018-01-12Bibliographically approved

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