Mastering cognitive development theory in computer science education

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Journal Article
Computer Science Education, 2013, 23 (1), pp. 24 - 57
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To design an effective computer science curriculum, educators require a systematic method of classifying the difficulty level of learning activities and assessment tasks. This is important for curriculum design and implementation and for communication between educators. Different educators must be able to use the method consistently, so that classified activities and assessments are comparable across the subjects of a degree, and, ideally, comparable across institutions. One widespread approach to supporting this is to write learning objects in terms of Bloom's Taxonomy. This, or other such classifications, is likely to be more effective if educators can use them consistently, in the way experts would use them. To this end, we present the design and evaluation of our online interactive web-based tutorial system, which can be configured and used to offer training in different classification schemes. We report on results from three evaluations. First, 17 computer science educators complete a tutorial on using Bloom's Taxonomy to classify programming examination questions. Second, 20 computer science educators complete a Neo-Piagetian tutorial. Third evaluation was a comparison of inter-rater reliability scores of computer science educators classifying programming questions using Bloom's Taxonomy, before and after taking our tutorial. Based on the results from these evaluations, we discuss the effectiveness of our tutorial system design for teaching computer science educators how to systematically and consistently classify programming examination questions. We also discuss the suitability of Bloom's Taxonomy and Neo-Piagetian theory for achieving this goal. The Bloom's and Neo-Piagetian tutorials are made available as a community resource. The contributions of this paper are the following: the tutorial system for learning classification schemes for the purpose of coding the difficulty of computing learning materials; its evaluation; new insights into the consistency that computing educators can achieve using Bloom; and first insights into the use of Neo-Piagetian theory by a group of classifiers. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.
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