About This Research Project

As part of an ongoing series of studies, our team has explored competencies (skills, knowledge, and attitudes or dispositions) needed by computing professionals, and professionals’ views on computing education and life-long learning. This line of research has pointed to the importance of balancing foundational theory with applied skills and the ability to learn additional programing languages, technologies, techniques, and theory once on the job. Among the most important competencies are those relating to professional communication and teamwork skills, critical thinking, and lifelong learning skills and attitudes. Professionals’ ratings of importance of some traditional requirements, such as physical sciences and various types of mathematics, varied. One of the key recommendations for formal education is the use of projects of varying size and complexity, including both individual and team projects, full life-cycle projects, and the use of real-world practices such as change control and sophisticated debugging and testing utilizing tools similar to those used in industry.

This project strand is led by Dr. Marisa Exter.

Research Threads

As shown in the figure, we have pursued this topic by utilizing several rounds of mixed-methods exploratory and explanatory research. Interviews with experienced computer science professionals (Exter & Turnage, 2012) and another set focused on educational software designers/developers (Exter, 2011) as well as interviews with computing faculty (Caskurlu, Exter & Ashby, 2016) provided an in-depth view of their experiences, while survey findings from professionals and faculty (Exter, 2014; Exter & Ashby, 2018; Exter, Caskurlu & Fernandez, 2018) provided a somewhat larger body of data.

In 2020, our Purdue team became part of a multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary initiative that aims to create a partnership between academia and industry with intent of providing data-based recommendations for moving towards a competency-based curricular model in computing education. Thus far, the team has hosted a Workshop on Aligning Educational Goals with Professional Practice (funded by the National Science Foundation and sponsored by the ABET accreditation organization) which brought together researchers, professionals, and educators. The National Science Foundation has funded a nearly $3,000,000 grant, “A data-driven employer-academia partnership for continual computing curricular change,” which will begin in 2021. The Purdue team will work together with partners from the University of Alabama, George Washington University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of New Hampshire, Rochester Institute of Technology, and Tuskegee University. This multi-pronged project will focus on research-based development of a competency-based curricular model for computing education, which will be piloted in three diverse institutions in Alabama through help of custom change management models, and disseminated at the national level.

Select Publications & Presentations

Exter, M., Caskurlu, S., & Fernandez, T. (2018). Comparing Computing Professionals’ Perceptions of Importance of Skills and Knowledge on the Job and Coverage in Undergraduate Experiences. Transactions on Computer Education, 18(4). 1-29. https://dl.acm.org/doi/10.1145/3218430

Exter, M., & Ashby, I. (2018). Preparing today’s educational software developers: voices from the field. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 31(3), 472-494. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12528-018-9198-9

Caskurlu, S., Ashby, I., & Exter, M. (June, 2017). The Alignment Between Formal Education and Software Design Professionals’ Needs in Industry: Faculty Perception. Proceedings of the American Society for Engineering Education.. Columbus, OH. ASEE. https://peer.asee.org/28941.

Caskurlu S., Exter, M., & Ashby, I. (2016, April). Importance of lifelong learning skills and degree covered in undergraduate programs: faculty and practitioners’ perspective. Paper presented at the annual conference of the American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC.  View materials in ResearchGate.

Exter, M. E. (2014). Comparing educational experiences and on-the-job needs of educational software designers. Proceedings of the 45rd ACM technical symposium on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE). Atlanta, GA. https://doi.org/10.1145/2538862.2538970

Exter, M. E. & Turnage, N. M. (2012). Exploring experienced professionals’ reflections on computing education. Transactions on Computing Education, 12 (3). https://doi.org/10.1145/2275597.2275601

Exter, M. E. (2011). The educational experiences of software designers working in education/instructional technology related fields (Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University). View in ProQuest.