skip to main content

Paper Co-Authored By Geoffrey Herman Chosen No. 1 In SIGCSE Symposium’s All-Time Top 10

3/5/2019 12:26:25 PM By David Mercer, Illinois Computer Science

The Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education has named a paper co-authored by Illinois Computer Science Teaching Assistant Professor Geoffrey Herman the top paper in the group’s 50-year history.

The 2010 paper, “Identifying student misconceptions of programming," identified concepts that students misu
Illinois CS Teaching Assistant Professor Geoffrey Herman, right, accepts the award from SIGCSE with two of his co-authors, Assistant Professor Philip East of Northern Iowa University and education consultant and Harvey Mudd College instructor Lisa C. Kaczmarczyk.
Illinois CS Teaching Assistant Professor Geoffrey Herman, right, accepts the award from SIGCSE with two of his co-authors, Assistant Professor Philip East of Northern Iowa University and education consultant and Harvey Mudd College instructor Lisa C. Kaczmarczyk.
nderstood about a series of introductory computer science topics and provided instructors with ideas for helping students understand commonly misunderstood material.

Herman and his co-authors were presented with the award at the 50th ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education on March 2 in Minneapolis.

The landscape of computing education has changed almost immeasurably over the life of the symposium, said SIGCSE Board Chair Amber Settle of DePaul University.

"In 1969, the year of our first SIGCSE symposium, computing education was a niche specialty," Settle said. "Today, it is an essential skill students need to prepare for the workforce. Computing has become one of the most popular majors in higher education, and more and more students are being introduced to computing in K-12 settings. The Top Ten Symposium Papers of All Time Award will emphasize the outstanding research that underpins and informs how students of all ages learn computing.”

Herman said he joked with colleagues that the paper was not even nominated for a best-paper award in the year it was published. But it has become one of his most cited pieces of research.

“So it’s clearly had more legs than I had anticipated,” he said. “What it confirms to me is there is a hunger and a need for more work that really gets down to this fundamental science of how people are learning.”

Herman (PhD ECE, ’11) was a PhD student at time. The lead author on the paper was Lisa C. Kaczmarczyk, then a researcher at the University of California, San Diego, and now an adjunct instructor at Harvey Mudd College and an education consultant. The other co-authors were Elizabeth R. Petrick, who was then a PhD student at University of California, San Diego, and is now an assistant professor of history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology; and Philip East, then and now an associate professor of computer science education at the University of Northern Iowa.

The paper was based on interviews with UCSD students, Herman said, and was intended to document basic information on what students struggled with, something that at the time did not exist beyond anecdotes.

“A big part of that project was trying to create some level of consensus about what’s important to measure, and what does that student struggle with so that we can design assessment tools that target that,” Herman said. “That paper was in many ways a stepping stone to try and develop more rigorous measurement and improvement.”

Since then, Herman says he has continued to build on that research, focusing on it from an architecture perspective.

“Do students understand fundamentally, on the most level what a computer’s memory system is, how it’s used?” he said. “Do they even understand what the hardware is doing independent of the software?

Other papers included in the Top 10 list announced at the conference included:

  • “Improving the CS1 experience with pair programming," from 2003,  by Nachiappan Nagappan, Laurie Williams, Miriam Ferzli, Eric Wiebe, Kai Yang, Carol Miller, Suzanne Balik, all from North Carolina State University.
  • “Undergraduate women in computer science: experience, motivation and culture,” from 1997, by Allan Fisher, Jane Margolis, Faye Miller of Carnegie Mellon University.
  • "A Multi-institutional Study of Peer Instruction in Introductory Computing, published in 2016, by Leo Porter and Beth Simon, University of California, San Diego; Dennis Bouvier, Southern Illinois University; Quintin Cutts, University of Glasgow; Scott Grissom, Grand Valley State University; Cynthia Lee, Stanford University; Robert McCartney, University of Connecticut; Daniel Zingaro, University of Toronto.
  • “The introductory programming course in computer science: ten principles," 1978, by G. Michael Schneider, University of Minnesota.
  • “Constructivism in computer science education," 1998, by Mordechai Ben-Ari, Weizmann Institute of Science.
  • “Using software testing to move students from trial-and-error to reflection-in-action,” 2004, Stephen H. Edwards, Virginia Tech University.
  • “What should we teach in an introductory programming course?" 1974, David Gries, Cornell University.
  • “Contributing to success in an introductory computer science course: a study of twelve factors,” 2001, Brenda Cantwell Wilson, Murray State University; and Sharon Shrock, Southern Illinois University.
  • “Teaching objects-first in introductory computer science,” 2003, by Stephen Cooper, Saint Joseph's University; Wanda Dann, Ithaca College; and Randy Pausch Carnegie Mellon University.