CCSE Reading Group: So Many Skills, So Little Time: A Hypothetical Discussion about Skills Deficit Interventions in Entry-Level Computing Science

DATE: 29th November 2021
TIME: 13:00-14:00
LOCATION: CCSE Online Seminar Room

This talk was inspired by – but does not directly lean on – a paper by Endres et al. which compares a spatial skills intervention with a technical reading intervention in a CS1 programme. Both interventions appeared to develop different skills which helped students to answer different kinds of questions, so it would appear that both skills are useful to have and therefore that both interventions could be valuable. (The paper is linked for those curious, but really it just led me to think more on interventions in general, so isn’t as important itself as your thoughts on the broader matter).

You don’t need to dig deep to discover that we have several interventions of a similar kind at Glasgow: we have our spatial skills in first year computing, the maths skills test in first year mathematics (in which the students need to pass a test and are given materials to work on in their own time) and LEADS courses such as the Academic Writing Skills Programme. The courses exist because some students begin a programme with a skills deficit, and we know that by addressing this deficit we can improve their outcomes in the programme.

But this approach comes with difficulties: what if we keep discovering more skills that we think we need to develop, taking up more and more time in students’ diaries? How can we decide which interventions are important? Students often dislike additional work even if it is made clear how it will benefit them; how can we improve student attitudes towards interventions? And philosophically, to what degree is it even our responsibility to make sure that students develop these skills when they are not specifically part of our learning outcomes?

On Monday, I will open the session by giving an overview of some of the different interventions we run to address different skills deficits and highlight the methods we (the university) have gone about running them; I will then put up some questions about hypothetical interventions for us to discuss; we will discuss them in breakout rooms and then come back to share our thoughts together.

First published: 29 November 2021