Engaging CS1 Students with Project Based Learning

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

2 Scopus citations


This Research to Practice Work in Progress paper examines a persistent issue with many CS1 courses - finding assignments that are engaging while still covering core learning objectives necessary for success in the course and computer science programs. In traditional CS1 courses, textbook tasks are usually elementary, mathematically based, and only somewhat relevant to the student. Instead, if we allow students to design and implement their own projects, they not only master the primary objectives of the course, but they can do so in a way that is most meaningful and engaging to them. While project-based approaches to CS1 are not new, most employ predefined projects created by the instructor or found online through community-based educational resources. In this research, we leverage the fact that many CS students are double majors and allow them to create projects that are unique and applicable to these other interests. We contrast a traditionally taught CS1 class with a project-based CS1 class and compare student achievement between the two. We discover that students perform better on most learning objectives in the project-based class and they gain a deeper understanding of how to scaffold programming components into follow-on assignments. In addition, students indicate that the project-based focus was more enjoyable and more useful as they create projects that apply to their personal interests and thus their future.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFrontiers in Education
Subtitle of host publicationFostering Innovation Through Diversity, FIE 2018 - Conference Proceedings
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781538611739
StatePublished - Jul 2 2018
Event48th Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2018 - San Jose, United States
Duration: Oct 3 2018Oct 6 2018

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Conference48th Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Jose


  • CS1
  • Project-based assignments


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