CS1 Instructors: Flexibility in Content Approaches is Justified, and can Enable More Cross-University Cooperation 

Published 2024


Frank Vahid
University of California, Riverside; zyBooks a Wiley Brand

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 Many CS1 teachers focus on specific content approaches in CS1. Some want objects early, some functions early, some decisions/loops first. Some put emphasis on language details, some on language-neutral problem solving. Some demand real-world IDEs, code versioning tools, industry-quality comments, specifications, documentation, or test coverage. While the focus shows teachers care and may indeed provide benefits, those specific focuses can also prevent increased cooperation among universities in defining a more “common” CS1 curricula. With a more common curriculum, better content and tool support is enabled due to economies of scale. Such cooperation could yield a more powerful approach to teaching CS1, elevating the role of CS1 instructors. CS1 instructors, by being more flexible in their content approaches, may help show the college education community the great benefits of increased cooperation among universities, especially in the design and delivery of introductory gateway courses taken by large numbers of students. We describe results of discussions with over 100 instructors at over 50 universities during the past decade, highlighting frequently-stated content approaches that have little or no evidence supporting the approach and that may hamper cooperation, and we end by encouraging flexibility in content approaches to enable the community and publishers to provide better CS1 support. 

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