Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Computer Science


Computer Science


John B. Clements


Today, many introductory computer science courses rely heavily on a specific programming language to convey fundamental programming concepts. For beginning students, the cognitive capacity required to operate with the syntactic forms of this language may overwhelm their ability to formulate a solution to a program.

We recognize that the introductory computer science courses can be more effective if they convey fundamental concepts without requiring the students to focus on the syntax of a programming language. To achieve this, we propose a new teaching method based on the Design Recipe and Code Outlining (DRaCO) processes. Our new pedagogy capitalizes on the algorithmic intuitions of novice students and provides a tool for students to externalize their intuitions using techniques they are already familiar with, rather than with the syntax of a specific programming language. We validate the effectiveness of our new pedagogy by integrating it into an existing CS1 course at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. We find that the our newly proposed pedagogy shows strong potential to improve students’ ability to program.