Helping Engineering Students Learn in Introductory Computer Science (CS1) Using Computational Creativity Exercises (CCEs)

Markeya S. Peteranetz, Abraham E. Flanigan, Duane F. Shell, Leen Kiat Soh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Contribution: This paper provides evidence that computational creativity exercises (CCEs) can increase engineering students' learning in introductory computer science (CS1) courses. Its main contribution is its more rigorous treatment/control group research design that allows testing for causal influences of CCEs on student learning and performance. Background: Computer science (CS) courses are critical foundational courses for engineering students. CCEs that merge computational and creative thinking have been shown to increase achievement and learning of engineering and nonengineering students in CS1 courses, but previous research has used quasi- and non-experimental designs. Intended Outcomes: CCEs are intended to improve students' learning of CS1 content and problem-solving ability by fostering computational creativity. Application Design: CCEs can improve student learning and can be used to supplement other evidence-based instructional practices. Findings: Propensity score matching was used to create equivalent treatment and control groups; results show that students in the CCE implementation section had higher scores on a CS knowledge test than students in the control section, but not higher self-efficacy for their CS knowledge. Focus group and open-ended survey questions indicated that students had mixed reactions to the CCEs, with about half the students seeing them as improving their learning, understanding, and ability to apply CS in their engineering field. Responses also reinforced the importance of fully incorporating CCEs in courses and aligning them with course topics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8303219
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Transactions on Education
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2018


  • Achievement
  • CS1
  • computational creativity
  • computer science
  • evidence-based practice
  • self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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