Algorithms for Algorithms: Teaching Problem-Solving in Computer Science
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Increased demand from society for computer scientists and software engineers has placed considerable stress on university-based computer science and engineering programs. Given technology's central role in society, the education of those developing and maintaining that technology is critical. Behavior-based teaching methods may assist in addressing increased demand on universities and improve the quality of education they provide. The present study included two experiments of non-concurrent multiple baseline design. The experiments included 29 total participants to evaluate different algorithm-writing teaching methods at the undergraduate level. Algorithms describe a problem's key features and outline the step-by-step process required for solving that particular problem. The instructional techniques evaluated included traditional university courses such as textbooks and lectures. During Experiment 1, researchers compared these methods with behavior analytic methods such as task analyses and behavioral skills training. Experiment 2 was a direct replication of Experiment 1 with a more comprehensive task analysis. In both experiments, most participants only displayed significant improvement in the Task Analysis + Behavioral Skills Training phase. In that phase, participant performance improved drastically, generalized to more complex tasks, and maintained several weeks after training.