Lewis Receives Best Research Paper Award at ICER Conference

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Assistant Professor of Computer Science Colleen Lewis received the Chair’s Award at the International Computing Education Research Conference (ICER) last month in New Zealand.

The award recognizes the best research paper presented at the conference.

Lewis received the award for her paper, “Tracking Program State: A Key Challenge in Learning to Program,” which shares the case study of a middle-school student’s experience debugging a computer program he had written.

“The take-away from the paper is that we should help students recognize what they should be paying attention to within the programming environment. A particularly important thing to pay attention to is the state—all the variables that are relevant to how the computer program runs,” Lewis said. “I was pleased during the presentation that the attendees took seriously what we could learn from analyzing a single student’s experience. This reaction was surprising and encouraging.”

Lewis conducted her research in 2009 while pursuing graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley. She collected her data during a summer enrichment program that taught computer science to students entering the 6th grade. With parental and student consent, she recorded the students’ work and conversations that took place within the programming environment.

“This type of qualitative, close analysis of individual students engaged in authentic behavior is rare within computer science education,” she said.

Lewis joined the Harvey Mudd College faculty this fall. She earned her bachelor’s degree (electrical engineering and computer science, 2005), her master’s degree (computer science, 2009) and her doctorate (science and mathematics education, 2012) from UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on computer science education.