Luc Paquette Wins Prestigious NSF CAREER Award

by Ashley Lawrence  /   Feb 19, 2020

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Assistant professor of Curriculum & Instruction Luc Paquette has been awarded a 2020 NSF CAREER Award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for his proposal, “Combining human judgment and data-driven approaches for the development of interpretable models of student behaviors: applications to computer science education.”

The NSF's Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) initiative selects the nation's best young university faculty in a highly competitive annual program. These teacher-scholars are recognized for their extraordinary promise to integrate research and education in the nation's universities and to make lifelong contributions to their disciplines. 

"Getting an NSF Career Award is well-recognized as a high honor for early career faculty and clear recognition of work that is cutting edge and potentially transformational. I am thrilled that Dr. Paquette's work is being acknowledged in this way, and I am excited for all the impactful work that will come from it," said Robb Lindgren, associate professor in Curriculum & Instruction and director of the College’s Technology Innovation in Educational Research and Design (TIER-ED) initiative.

Paquette’s five-year award from NSF of $695,871 will involve using data-driven approaches to study the debugging processes (identifying and resolving defects in computer programs) of novice programmers enrolled in a college level introductory computer science course, identify the meaningful elements of their debugging behaviors and how those elements combine to form common debugging strategies.

This knowledge will be used to create computer algorithms able to identify which debugging strategies students use when programming, Paquette explained in his proposal. These algorithms will be designed to be interpretable by students and instructors and will be used to support students in learning efficient debugging strategies, instructors in monitoring their students’ debugging practices and future K-12 teachers in learning about the meaningful elements of the debugging process.

“The research will mostly take place in the context of an Introduction to Computer Science class offered by the Department of Computer Science (CS 125). Dr. Geoffrey Challen, the main instructor for CS 125 has agreed to share data collected in the context of this class and is a member of the advisory board for the grant,” said Paquette.

Computing represents the number one source of new wages in the U.S. economy, and the results of Paquette’s project may positively impact the state of computer science education in both college-level introductory computer science courses and in K-12 classes by supporting future teachers in learning how to foster important debugging skills.