Computer Science Discipline Assessment 2006-2007


Scope of assessment activities

         ___√__Course-embedded assessment

                     ___√___ Pre- and post-testing

         ______ Outside the classroom

         ______ Across the discipline

Direct measures of student learning

         ___√__ Capstone experience

         ______ Portfolio assessment

         ___√__ Standardized tests

         ___√__ Performance on national licensure, certification or

                     preprofessional exams

         ______ Qualitative internal and external juried review of

                     of comprehensive senior projects

         ______ Externally reviewed exhibitions and performances in

                     the arts

         ______ External evaluation of performance during internships


Discussion and Description

Discipline goals, direct measures, and improved student learning


         1. Computer science discipline goals. The goals for students are to

Š      learn the fundamentals of computing including problem-solving skills, algorithm development, programming, and developing effective solutions through group activities

Š      acquire appropriate communication skills for the field

Š      develop a broader perspective of the computing field.


         2. Capstone course: computer science seminar.

         2.1. Seminar I and II.

         The two seminars address specific discipline goals. Sophomore majors take Seminar I, where they learn the fundamentals of reading, writing, and presenting scientific literature, and study ethical issues in computing. In Seminar II, senior majors research a current topic in the field, and work one-on-one with a faculty member to develop a written document and professional oral presentation. The wide variety of options and presentations helps students achieve the desired broader perspective of the field. The course culminates in a professional style conference where the students present their papers.


         2.2. Assessment tools.

         All faculty and students attending the presentations in both seminars complete an evaluation. At the end of the Seminar II conference, the faculty meet for the formal assessment of the papers and presentations. The student papers are bound as a conference proceedings and archived.

         2.3. Improving student learning.

         This occurs at both the formative and summative levels. Students work one-on-one with faculty in developing their papers and presentations. They get feedback from the post-conference evaluations. Assessment of what used to be “Senior Seminar” led to splitting seminar into its sophomore and senior components. The split introduces ethical issues earlier in the curriculum, and provides students with increased and earlier opportunities to write and speak about the field.


         3. Course-embedded assessment.

         3.1. Software Design and Development.

         The discipline regards this as a core course in reaching the first set of disciplinary goals. Groups of students undertake a major class project, which becomes the focus of assessment. “Some of the changes in this course over time have included incorporating tools that allow the instructor to better assess a student’s contribution to the class project (bug tracking, code commits, software versioning, documentation, and testing tools). Since student learning in the course would seem to be connected to the amount they contribute to the project, the changing use of these tools over time is a story about assessing student learning in the course.”[1]

         3.2. Two courses: Introduction to Digital Media Computation; and Foundations of Computer Science.

         These are entry level courses that used similar assessment tools. In both, student progress was tracked on certain topics or learning objectives, and course activity was adjusted based on the outcomes. The tools for tracking progress were quizzes, tests, and “whaddayaknows,” the last-named being assessments that did not contribute directly to the course grade.

         3.2.1. The Digital Media course.

         Several key learning goals are incorporated into this course. One of them is understanding the concept of recursion. Assessment suggested that the topic was introduced too late in the course’s first offering. As a consequence, the instructor not only introduced it earlier, but revisited it on a number of occasions. The final measurements of this learning objective showed a significant improvement in student learning of recursion.

         3.2.2. The Foundations course.

         Online quizzes provided instant feedback to students, and whaddayaknows feedback within a day or two. The exams used in the course became a kind of continuing pre-test/post-test assessment activity. The instructor used the results of one exam to guide learning activities, and used the next exam to assess whether these activities had improved student learning.


         4. Programming contests.

         The check mark next to performance (above) refers to these contests. “Our students have been participating in the DigiKey programming contest for several years and have taken many of the top places. This is a regional contest that our students participate in by invitation.”[2]


General education categories spanned by the discipline


            Computer science courses all bear the M/SR, mathematics/symbolic reasoning, general education designator with the exception of seminar and directed study, which carry none.


[1] Ibid.

[2] Ibid.