Date of Award

8-2007

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Computer Science

Advisor

Stevenson, Steve

Committee Member

Weaver , Kenneth

Committee Member

Nilson , Linda

Committee Member

Madison , Wayne

Committee Member

Pargas , Roy

Abstract

A documented shortage of technical leadership and top-tier performers in
computer science jeopardizes the technological edge, security, and economic well-being of the nation. The 2005 President's Information and Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) Report on competitiveness in computational sciences highlights the major impact of science, technology, and innovation in keeping America competitive in the global marketplace. It stresses the fact that the supply of science, technology, and engineering experts is at the core
of America's technological edge, national competitiveness and security. However, recent data shows that both undergraduate and postgraduate production of computer scientists is falling.

Past research on expert performance has shown that the cognitive traits
of critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving possessed by top-tier performers can be identified, observed and measured. Companies have begun to realize that cognitive skills are important for high-level performance and are reevaluating the traditional academic standards they have used to predict success for their top-tier performers in computer science.

Previous research in the computer science field has focused either on programming skills of its experts or has attempted to predict the academic success of students at the undergraduate level. This study, on the other hand, examines
the critical-thinking skills found among experts in the computer science
field in order to explore the questions, 'What cognitive skills do outstanding performers possess that make them successful?' and 'How do currently used measures of academic performance correlate to critical-thinking skills among students?'

The results of this study suggest a need to examine how critical-thinking
abilities are learned in the undergraduate computer science curriculum and the need to foster these abilities in order to produce the high-level, critical-thinking
professionals necessary to fill the growing need for these experts. Due to the fact that current measures of academic performance do not adequately depict students' cognitive abilities, assessment of these skills must be incorporated into existing curricula.

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