Research Output

New Entrants' Expectations of the First Year Computer Science Experience in the Context of a New National High School Curriculum

  Computer science (CS) has the highest first year dropout rate amongst UK undergraduates. In this context, understanding the expectations of new students is a first step to designing a CS curriculum that will improve their first year experience. The aim of this study was to present new entrants' reflections on their school CS, once they have started university and can compare teaching and learning in the different institutions.

The study is based on interviews with 84 Scottish-educated students in two cohorts that bridge the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) and new public examinations in Computing Science, intended to bring about significant change in students' attributes and attitudes to learning. The participants vary in level of computing qualifications, reflecting the heterogeneous background of CS entrants.

We asked both cohorts if they felt their learning in the senior years of high school had prepared them for university, and whether they felt they were taught or learned for themselves during school. The students were further asked whether they expected that the proportion of teaching to learning would differ at university.

The findings indicate that many students speak positively about high school CS, but many criticise the dominance of teacher-led instruction that ill-prepares them for self-regulated learning at university. Despite the intentions of CfE, the findings indicate little difference between the cohorts. However, students provide valuable perspective on the Scottish Computing Science experience and the role of Advanced Higher computing, which should prove interesting to those responsible for retention and curriculum design.

  • Date:

    02 July 2019

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  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier University Teaching Fellowship Fund


Bhardwaj, J. (2019). New Entrants' Expectations of the First Year Computer Science Experience in the Context of a New National High School Curriculum. In ITiCSE '19: Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education. , (85-91).


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