Students' Expert-Like Attitudes in Calculus and Introductory Computer Science Courses with Active-Learning Pedagogy


Background and Context: Computer Science has traditionally had poor student retention, especially among women. Prior work has found that student attitudes are a key factor to retention, especially with “weedout” courses such as Calculus.

Objective: To determine how student attitudes towards CS 1 and Calculus change over active-learning courses with explicit real-world connections, and the implications for at-risk groups in CS, including women and students without prior experience in CS.

Methods: We use two validated instruments, the Computer Attitudes Survey (CAS) and the Mathematics Attitudes and Perceptions Survey (MAPS), both of which derive from the Colorado Learning Attitudes about Science Survey (CLASS), to compare student attitudes in Calculus I and CS 1. Our analysis includes 109 students for the CAS and 73 for the MAPS.

Findings: CS 1 students began the course with CAS scores higher than observed in prior work, and post-course CAS scores were even higher overall. Calculus students started the course with MAPS scores in line with prior work, but unlike prior work we find that overall MAPS scores did not decline during the semester. Women’s reported interest in math increased significantly during the semester. Students with prior computer science experience began CS 1 with higher overall CAS scores, while students with prior calculus experience began Calculus with similar overall MAPS scores but much higher reported interest.

Implications: Difference in student attitudes between the courses may show why Calculus acts a “weedout” course for Computer Science. This highlights the importance of instructors demonstrating the usefulness of Calculus.


Taylor & Francis

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Computer Science Education


Computer Science

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