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An Exercise To Engage Computing Students In Discussions Of Professional Issues

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering Ethics V

Tagged Division

Engineering Ethics

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.190.1 - 14.190.15



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Paper Authors


Tammy VanDeGrift University of Portland

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Dr. Tammy VanDeGrift is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Portland. Her research interests include computer science education and computer science theory. In the arena of computer science education research, she is especially interested in conducting studies that investigate students' preconceptions of computing ideas.

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Donald Chinn University of Washington, Tacoma

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Dr. Donald Chinn is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Tacoma. He helped create a supplementary problem solving workshop program based on the Treisman model for computer science students at UWT in 2004. His research interests are primarily in computer science education. Previously, he has done research in theoretical computer science. He also worked at Microsoft Corporation as a software design engineer for three and a half years.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

An Exercise to Engage Computing Students in Discussion of Professional Issues


Both ABET and CC2001 emphasize the importance for students to engage in learning about professionalism and ethics. For computing programs, teaching these topics might seem daunting compared to technical material. In this paper we present a hiring exercise that engages students in crafting arguments and presenting evidence to support their hiring decisions. Given a fictitious company and set of four candidates, students choose one to fulfill a software developer position and one to fulfill a program manager position. Students determine their hiring criteria; this process encourages reflection upon skill sets and attitudes of computing professionals. Through writing and oral discussion, students discuss several topics related to professionalism and ethics (e.g., honesty, loyalty, motivation, creativity, diversity). This paper contains the hiring exercise, an instructor guide, and analysis of students’ work. Our results show that students met the learning objectives of crafting arguments, reflecting upon computing skills, and discussing issues related to professionalism and diversity.

1. Introduction

One of several educational objectives for computer science programs is preparing students for a successful career in the software industry. Both ABET and CC2001 emphasize that computer science graduates should engage topics related to ethics and professionalism1,10. For example, CC2001 identifies the social context of computing (SP2) and professional and ethical responsibilities (SP4) as core subject areas. It also describes in detail the scope of these areas (Chapter 10, pages 55-61). ABET program outcome letter (e) (an understanding of professional, ethical, legal, security and social issues and responsibilities) demonstrates that students should gain experience with ethical and professional issues prior to graduation.

Engagement in professional and ethical issues could be fostered through several types of learning activities. For example, using case studies provide opportunities for students to analyze decisions and responsibilities in a certain context4,9. Encouraging students to participate in professional societies, such as the Association for Computing Machinery, is another way for students to better understand professional responsibilities. Internships and cooperative work experiences benefit students in several ways; one such benefit is direct engagement in the profession. The working group, chaired by Little and Granger, created a list of pedagogical approaches to teaching professionalism11. Among the pedagogical approaches is the use of role-playing and discussions. We used role-playing and discussion to develop a hiring exercise to directly engage students in making decisions about which candidates to hire for a fictitious software company. Students are asked to choose the most appropriate candidates for two positions: a software developer and a program manager. In preparation for making their decisions, students read a description of the company, DotEdu, the job descriptions, and information about four candidates. The candidate information includes standard résumé information and notes about responses to interview questions. Students complete written deliverables, where they identify criteria for their

VanDeGrift, T., & Chinn, D. (2009, June), An Exercise To Engage Computing Students In Discussions Of Professional Issues Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5868

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