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ERIC Number: EJ808939
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 11
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 30
ISSN: ISSN-1547-9714
Thinking and Behaving Scientifically in Computer Science: When Failure is an Option!
Venables, Anne; Tan, Grace
Journal of Information Technology Education, v5 p121-131 2006
In a Finnish study of four different academic disciplines, Ylijoki (2000) found that in Computer Science there was a disparity between the conceptions held by undergraduate students and staff about their discipline; students viewed it as being far more pragmatic and results focused than did their instructors. Not surprisingly, here at our Australian university where the undergraduate Computer Science program emphasizes programming and problem solving skills, the authors had noticed a similar inconsistency between staff and student beliefs. This paper reports on an effort to realign these conceptions and broaden student experience using an assessment task. Centered on solutions to the popular "Sudoku" puzzle (Sudoku, 2005), the task was designed and introduced into an Intelligent Systems course, a final year elective of a Computer Science degree. The goal was to expose students to some of the "pure" rather than applied aspects of the Computer Science discipline (Becher & Trowler, 2001), by using assessment to encourage experimental learning (Kolb & Fry, 1975). The assessment specification instructed students to design and conduct several "in silica" Computer Science experiments to solve and/or create Sudoku puzzles. Importantly, students were asked to keep a Research Diary documenting their thoughts, attempts, backtracking and progresses as they attempted the assignment. Most unique from a student's perspective was that "failure" to solve the given problem by experimentation was a viable option; their efforts would be rewarded given they conducted themselves "scientifically" in their attempt. The inclusion of a Research Diary as part of the assessment proved beneficial to both students and staff, particularly as the Diaries focused students on the doing, rather than on the results achieved. For staff, these journals allowed the privilege of seeing what students were thinking and doing as they engaged in the problem. An early analysis of Diary entries shows evidences of students "thinking scientifically", that is, understanding and thinking about the problem before formalizing an approach to a solution. In addition, Diary entries also show evidences of students "behaving scientifically" as they reported conducting experiments and analyzing their results, before concluding about their experiences. For students, regardless of whether they able to complete the task, the Research Diaries were valuable testaments to their efforts and experimentations. (Contains 1 figure and 2 tables.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia