Date of Award

Summer 2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


STEM Education & Professional Studies

Committee Director

Philip A. Reed

Committee Member

Darryl C. Draper

Committee Member

Ginger Watson


The purpose of this study was to define the competencies, programming languages, and assessments for an introductory computer science course at a small private liberal arts university. Three research questions were addressed that involved identifying the competencies, programming languages, and assessments that academic and industry experts in California’s Central Valley felt most important and appropriate for an introduction to computer science course.

The Delphi methodology was used to collect data from the two groups of experts with various backgrounds related to computing. The goal was to find consensus among the individual groups to best define aspects that would best comprise an introductory CS0 course for majors and non-majors. The output would be valuable information to be considered by curriculum designers who are developing a new program in software engineering at the institution. The process outlined would also be useful to curriculum designers in other fields and geographic regions who attempt to address their local education needs.

Four rounds of surveys were conducted. The groups of experts were combined in the first round to rate the items in the straw models determined from the literature and add additional components when necessary. The academic and industry groupings were separated for the remainder of the study so that a curriculum designer could determine not only the items deemed most important, but also their relative importance among the two distinct groups. The experts selected items in each of the three categories in the second round to reduce the possibilities for subsequent rounds. The groups were then asked to rank the items in each of the three categories for the third round. A fourth round was held as consensus was not reached by either of the groups for any of the categories as determined by Kendall’s W. The academic experts reached consensus on a list of ranked competencies in the final round and showed a high degree of agreement on lists of ranked programming languages and assessments. Kendall’s W, values, however, were just short of the required 0.7 threshold for consensus on these final two items. The industry experts did not reach consensus and showed low agreement on their recommendations for competencies, programming languages, and assessments.


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