Course Syllabus

CS 4960/6960. Computer Science Education: Research and Practice

Instructor: Professor Wiese ( 

Class Time: Mondays & Wednesdays, 11:50am-1:10pm

Course meetings: (see announcements for password)

Student Hours: Thursdays 11-noon (see announcements for password)

Important links for class:


Contents of this document:

What does it mean to study CS Education?

This course is about how students learn CS, how we can design effective instruction, and how we can draw on research to help us understand both of those things. We will start with a scientific foundation of how learning happens in general, across topics. We will also explore CS-specific instructional strategies, and learn a process for instructional design. We will explore these kinds of questions:

  • What is involved in good teaching?
  • How can we tell if students are learning?
  • What can students do to become more successful learners, and how can instruction support those actions?
  • Who is in the CS education research community, what are they working on, and what open questions do we care most about?

What you will not learn in this class

This class will not train you to teach a specific CS class. This class will not give you a step-by-step recipe that will automatically lead to good instruction or assessments. This class will not give you a comprehensive list of mistakes that CS students will make.  This class will not give you all of the answers, mostly because they don't exist. I expect that this course will inspire more questions than it answers. I hope that you will want to continue exploring those questions, along with the vibrant, growing community of CS education researchers. 

What you will learn in this class

You will learn about principles and theories of learning, as tools for making sense of your own experience as learners and as tools for thinking about what makes for good instruction. You will learn about specific research studies that provide evidence for particular strategies or that demonstrate how to apply a concept to an instructional design. Through these studies, you will also learn about research methods for CS education. You will learn about an instructional design process focused on aligning goals, instruction, and assessment.

By the end of this class, you will be able to:

  1. Explain principles and theories of learning. Specific ideas will include: transfer, pedagogical content knowledge, metacognition, constructivism, and effects of prior knowledge.
  2. Follow an instructional design process to create materials for a CS topic.
  3. Use principles and theories of learning to critique instruction and assessment, and to justify your own design choices.
  4. Read CS education research papers and identify their key ideas.
  5. Communicate your ideas about CS education through writing.

I will refer to these as Learning Goals.

Learning Opportunities

Readings will come from research papers, blogs, and the National Academies Press. There will be readings for every week of the course, and time in class to discuss them and relate them to each other. To support Learning Goal 4, you will annotate the readings and note overall takeaways in weekly Reading Responses. To support Learning Goals 1 and 5, in a semester-long Reading Reflection, you will summarize the readings, relate their key ideas to each other, and reflect on ways that the readings changed your thinking. 

Class sessions will be used for discussion, short lectures, and activities to help illustrate an idea or connect it more concretely to instructional design. Active participation will be an important element of your own learning, and will make the class more fun for everyone. Class sessions will support all of the learning goals. 

A semester-long Instructional Design Project will give you hands-on practice with creating, revising, and critiquing instruction. You will follow an instructional design process (Learning Goal 2) that will give you hands-on practice with applying principles to specific contexts. This will also help you think through which ideas are helpful in different circumstances (Learning Goal 3). You will document your instructional design, your reasoning, and the results of testing your design with a learner (Learning Goal 5). This project will be broken up into two-week milestones, and you will get feedback from me and/or your peers at each milestone.

This class will involve learning from your peers. In addition to learning from each other during class discussions and other activities, you will give explicit feedback on each other's Instructional Design Projects, drawing on your knowledge of theories and principles to do so (Learning Goal 3). 

To support retrieval and effective knowledge organization that underlies Learning Goal 1, the class will include quizzes on key concepts and a midterm exam. These assessments will help us reflect on useful strategies for reading (Learning Goal 4). Explicit time for retrieving this information will strengthen those ideas in your own mind.


10% Reading Responses (weekly annotations and takeaways)

15% Reading Reflection (semester-long synthesis of readings)

10% Active and constructive class participation

40% Instructional Design Project (30% for the final document, 4% for mid-semester milestones, and 6% for revising in response to feedback)

10% Constructive feedback for another student's Design Project

15% Midterm Exam (on March 1, during class)

0% Quizzes

Most of the assessments in this class will be inherently subjective and will be based on my best judgement. 

Mapping between letter and number grades: your final grade will be rounded to the nearest whole number and then mapped: 93-100 = A, 90-92 = A-, 87-89 = B+, 83-86 = B, 80-82 = B-. Please come talk to me if you need to know the mappings for other grades. 


As a class, we will collectively structure and organize this course. Below is my initial draft. This course is for students who care about learning - their own and others'. I expect you to have goals for what you want to get out of this course, and thoughts about the activities, structures, and norms that will support your learning. If you do not plan on being a driving force in your own learning, this is not the class for you.

Estimates for reading times are based on: (rough count of words on a sample page) * (number of pages) * (200 words per minute)

Week Reading (Reading response due on Friday) Project and Reflection Timeline
1: January 20

How Experts Differ from Novices (How People Learn, Chapter 2. 20 pages, 1 hour)

One of:

  • Retrieving (Small Teaching, Chapter 1. 22 pages, 35 minutes)
  • Interleaving (Small Teaching, Chapter 3. 22 pages, 35 minutes)

Nothing due.

Think about a project topic and reflection format that will serve your long-term goals.

2: January 25, 27

Learning and Transfer (How People Learn, Chapter 3. 28 pages, 1 hour 25 minutes)


3: February 1, 3 Notional Machines and Introductory Programming Education (26 pages, 1 hour 45 minutes)

W: Context and Initial Resources due (Project Step 1)

4: February 8, 10

Cognitive Load Theory. Read one of:

  • Measuring Cognitive Load in Introductory CS: Adaptation of an Instrument (6.5 pages, 35 minutes)
  • Research-Based Design in the First Weeks of CS1 (9 pages, 50 minutes)
  • Investigating the Affect and Effect of Adaptive Parsons Problems (9.5 pages, 30 minutes)

M: Constructive comments on Step 1 due to your Feedback Friend

W: Get instructor feedback on Step 1.

Week 5:

February 15: No class, Presidents' Day

February 17: Regular class

Designing instruction with prior knowledge in mind. Read:

  • Using Action Research to Distill Research-Based Segments of Pedagogical Content Knowledge of K-12 Computer Science Teachers (6 pages, 35 minutes)
  • Using Bridging Analogies and Anchoring Instruction to Deal with Students' Preconceptions in Physics (16 pages)


  • The Role of the Teacher in Making Sense of Classroom Experience and Effecting Better Learning (29 pages)
  • Language-Independent Conceptual "Bugs" in Novice Programming (11 pages)
W: Learner Profile and Learning Goals due (Project step 2)
6: February 22, 24

Valuing mistakes. Read one of:

  • Knowledge and Situational Feedback in a Learning Environment for Algebra Story Problem Solving

  • Fostering the Intelligent Novice: Learning From Errors With Metacognitive Tutoring

  • Outcomes and mechanisms of transfer in invention activities


Designing Computer Learning Environments for Engineering and Computer Science: The Scaffolded Knowledge Integration Framework

M: Constructive comments on Step 2 due to your Feedback Friend

W: Get instructor feedback on Step 2.


March 1: Midterm Exam

March 3: Regular Class


Explanations in programming. Read one of:

  • Using the SOLO taxonomy to understand subgoal labels effect in CS1
  • Expressions of abstraction: Self-explanation in code production

Climate in the CS Classroom. Read one of:

  • Defensive Climate in the Computer Science Classroom

  • A multi-institutional study of peer instruction in introductory computing

W: Assessment Design and Instructional Design Plan due (Project Step 3)

F: Nominations for topics for the second half of the course

March 8: No class

March 10: Class will be optional or cancelled

No readings

W: Get instructor feedback on Step 3

8: March 15, 17

No readings. See Readings and Responses for the specific readings for the remainder of the semester.

M: Semester Reading Reflection draft due

9: March 22, 24

Topic: Designing Assessments

M: Revised Assessment and Instructional Design (Project Step 4) and plan for testing

W: Constructive comments on Step 4 due to your Feedback Friend

10: March 29, 31

Topic: CS for younger students

M: Get instructor feedback on Step 4


April 5: No class

April 7: Regular class

Topic: Practical Applications of previous course concepts

W: Results of testing with a learner due (Project Step 5)

12: April 12, 14

Topic: Classroom Climate and Peers

M: Constructive comments on Step 5 due to your Feedback Friend

W: Get instructor feedback on Step 5

13: April 19, 21

Topic: Instructional design for Human-Computer Interaction

W: Instructional Design Project Report due

14: April 26

No readings

M: Semester Reading Reflection Due


Technology and Resources

We will decide together which technologies best suit our needs. My initial plan is:

  • Zoom for class meetings and Student Hours
  • gCloud for writing and commenting on your Instructional Design Project and Semester Reading Reflection, and for some in-class activities.
  • Adobe Cloud for annotating readings with Reading Responses
  • Canvas for grading and course announcements.
  • Email for communication. Please email me at and include "[CSed Class S21]" at the beginning of the subject line. Please email me from an address that ends in "". For privacy reasons, if someone pretending to be you emails me from a address, I will ask for the message to be re-sent from a address.
  • You do not need to purchase any textbook or other readings for this class.


Don't cheat in this class (or any class).  

Cheating happens when students focus on grades instead of learning. I don't think anyone is going to cheat in this class, and I think if anyone tried to, it wouldn't help them get a better grade. In accordance with the School of Computing's policies, I am defining cheating here so that we're all on the same page. I can't predict every kind of academic misconduct that students might do. Please do not be the reason that I need to add categories or more detailed explanations to this policy.

Cite Your Sources

  • If you copy words that someone else wrote, put quotation marks around them and cite your source. Use inline citations with a full bibliography at the end of your document. I recommend ACM style ( Each assignment will specify if there is a required format for citations. Using an alternate format for citations is not cheating, as long as it is clear that you are citing something and what you are citing. Copying words without clearly identifying what words are copied and without citing their source is plagiarism.
  • If you draw on ideas or evidence from work that someone else created, cite your source. Not citing your source misrepresents those ideas and that evidence as your own, and is plagiarism. 
  • EXCEPTION to the two points above: you do not need to cite the target reading as a source in your reading responses. 

Collaboration and Feedback

  • When you get useful suggestions from others that change the direction of your work, give them credit by explaining what they said and how you incorporated it. For example, "Orly suggested that I use interpretive dance as a form of assessment, so I created a dance-based assignment." 
  • All of your written work must be your own. You will give feedback on each other's work as a course requirement, and you may seek additional feedback and guidance to support your learning. That feedback can include suggestions, such as "clarify this point" or "explain how this fits with principle X." However, the person giving you feedback cannot suggest specific wording, add text to your document, or re-order text. The person giving feedback can delete text to make the writing more concise, but not to create new ideas. Here are two examples, where the deleted words are struck out:
    • This is fine: "The learning environment is really important. It's a super nice thing to have a plant in the classroom so students can see it growing and changing." 
    • This is not allowed: "The learning environment is really important. It's a super nice thing to have a plant in the classroom so students can see it growing and changing."
  • If someone giving you feedback adds words to your work or deletes words inappropriately, put quotation marks around what they did and cite them as a source. Email Dr. Wiese for further guidance, and do not ask this person for feedback again.
  • The policies above apply when you are giving feedback to someone else: you may not add or re-order words to someone else's document, and you may not delete in a way that adds or change ideas. If you have done this, email Dr. Wiese right away.
  • If you collaborated inappropriately but you cite your source and give appropriate credit, that is not considered academic misconduct or cheating. You may get a 0 on the assignment or section of an assignment because it does not demonstrate your own understanding, but you will not get a sanction for academic misconduct.


  • Fabrication, falsification, or misrepresentation of data, sources, or other information is cheating. For example:
    • not reporting negative incidents in a usability test or a test with a learner when those incidents in fact occurred. 
    • fabricating a reference to use in a citation
    • fabricating data instead of conducting a real usability test
  • Facilitating academic misconduct is cheating.

Depending on the severity of the misconduct, sanctions may range from no sanction (e.g., a warning) to failing the course. Students may appeal sanctions. Please see the School Of Computing’s Academic Misconduct Policy:

Course Policies Related to Student Wellbeing During COVID

  • Spring 2021, like Fall 2020, will be hard for everyone. I recognize that you are a full human with a life outside of this class. If you get sick, start to feel overwhelmed, have a family emergency, or need time away from the class for any reason, please talk to me. I will work with you to figure out a solution. 
  • Extensions and Accommodations. Deadlines and assessments are intended to help you learn by pacing the work throughout the semester and providing both you and me with information on what you are learning. If an extension or accommodation will help support your learning, please talk to me so that we can meet your immediate needs and keep you on track for the rest of the semester.
  • Per School of Computing policy, CR/NR cannot be used for required classes in the School of Computing.
  • We will discuss, as a class, plans for recording or not recording class meetings. 
  • There will be no work due during the week that is traditionally Spring Break
  • There will be a 5-minute break near the middle of every class period
  • There will be at least two check-ins on course workload and pacing during the semester
  • Cameras are encouraged during class because your facial expressions provide feedback on how well a class activity is going for you. Cameras are not required.
  • Please see this document from the College of Engineering: College of Engineering Guidelines Spring 2021.pdf 



School of Computing, College of Engineering, and University of Utah policies and statements:

University Policy: Sexual Misconduct Title IX makes it clear that violence and harassment based on sex and gender (which includes sexual orientation and gender identity/expression) is a civil rights offense subject to the same kinds of accountability and the same kinds of support applied to offenses against other protected categories such as race, national origin, color, religion, age, status as a person with a disability, veteran’s status or genetic information. If you or someone you know has been harassed or assaulted, you are encouraged to report it to the Title IX Coordinator in the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (801-581-8365), or the Office of the Dean of Students (801-581-7066). For support and confidential consultation, contact the Center for Student Wellness (801-581-7776). To report to the police, contact the Department of Public Safety, 801-585-2677(COPS).

Student Names & Personal Pronouns 

Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student’s legal name as well as “Preferred first name” (if previously entered by you in the Student Profile section of your CIS account). Please advise me of any name or pronoun changes (and update CIS) so I can help create a learning environment in which you, your name, and your pronoun will be respected. If you need assistance getting your preferred name on your UIDcard, please email 

Student Wellness 

Personal concerns such as stress, anxiety, relationship difficulties, depression, cross-cultural differences, etc., can interfere with a student’s ability to succeed and thrive at the University of Utah. For helpful resources contact the Center for Student Wellness at or 801-581-7776.

Veterans Center 

If you are a student veteran, the U of Utah has a Veterans Support Center. Please visit their website for more information about what support they offer, a list of ongoing events and links to outside resources: Please also let me know if you need any additional support in this class for any reason.

Learners of English as an Additional/Second Language 

If you are an English language learner, please be aware of several resources on campus that will support you with your language and writing development. These resources include: the Writing Center (; the Writing Program (; the English Language Institute ( Please let me know if there is any additional support you would like to discuss for this class.

Undocumented Student Support Statement

Immigration is a complex phenomenon with broad impact—those who are directly affected by it, as well as those who are indirectly affected by their relationships with family members, friends, and loved ones. If your immigration status presents obstacles to engaging in specific activities or fulfilling specific course criteria, confidential arrangements may be requested from the Dream Center. Arrangements with the Dream Center will not jeopardize your student status, your financial aid, or any other part of your residence. The Dream Center offers a wide range of resources to support undocumented students (with and without DACA) as well as students from mixed-status families. To learn more, please contact the Dream Center at 801–213–3697 or visit 


It is our intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well-served by this course, that students’ learning needs be addressed both in and out of class, and that the diversity that the students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is our intent to present materials and activities that are respectful of diversity: gender identity, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture. Your suggestions are encouraged and appreciated. Please let us know ways to improve the effectiveness of the course for you personally, or for other students or student groups.