The impact of placement strategies on the success of students in introductory computer science

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



© 2017 IEEE. Studies have shown that novice programmers face unnecessary obstacles when they are enrolled in an introductory course alongside students with previous programming experience. Thus a recommended best practice is to have separate courses or separate sections for novice and experienced students in introductory programming courses. At Michigan Tech we have two starting points for our introductory sequence with one aimed at novice programmers and a second aimed at students with some programming experience. We, therefore, assumed that the curriculum was in alignment with this best practice. A survey of our incoming students indicated that students were not enrolling in the courses consistent with our expectations. By changing the timing and means of offering an assessment to determine student placement in the introductory sequence, we were able to substantially impact the make-up of our introductory courses. The change did have the desired positive impact on students in the course for novice programmers. In this paper, we will also discuss some of the other issues we uncovered with this change.

Publication Title

Proceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE