The dimensions of variation in the teaching of data structures

Raymond Lister, Josh Tenenberg, Ilona Box, Brians Morrison, D. Suzanne Westbrook

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The current debate about the teaching of data structures is hampered because, as a community, we usually debate specifics about data structure implementations and libraries, when the real level of disagreement remains implicit - the intent behind our teaching. This paper presents a phenomenographic study of the intent of CS educators for teaching data structures in CS2. Based on interviews with Computer Science educators and analysis of CS literature, we identified five categories of intent: developing transferable thinking, improving students' programming skills, knowing "what's under the hood", knowledge of software libraries, and component thinking. The CS community needs to first debate at the level of these categories before moving to more specific issues. This study also serves as an example of how phenomenographic analysis can be used to inform debate on syllabus design in general.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)92-96
Number of pages5
JournalSIGCSE Bulletin (Association for Computing Machinery, Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2004
Externally publishedYes
EventITiCSE 2004 - 9th Annual SIGCSE Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: Jul 28 2004Jul 30 2004


  • CS2
  • Data structures
  • Introductory programming
  • Java Collections Framework
  • Phenomenography
  • STL

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Food Science
  • Hardware and Architecture


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