Date Posted: 3/06/2019

CS Professor David Gries has been lauded with the high distinction of writing one of the top ten computer science education research papers of the past fifty years. The award coincides with SIGCSE (Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education) celebrating its fiftieth anniversary. The press release for the occasion notes that the award “celebrat[es] the ideas that have shaped the field [of computer science] by recognizing a select group of publications.” 

SIGCSE Board Chair Amber Settle of DePaul University (Chicago) reflected on the significance of the award: “In 1969, the year of our first SIGCSE symposium, computing education was a niche specialty. Today, it is an essential skill students need to prepare for the workforce. Computing has become one of the most popular majors in higher education, and more and more students are being introduced to computing in K-12 settings. The Top Ten Symposium Papers of All Time Award will emphasize the outstanding research that underpins and informs how students of all ages learn computing. We also believe that highlighting excellent research will inspire others to enter the computing education field and make their own contributions.” 

Professor Gries’ paper—“What should we teach in an introductory programming course”—was published in 1974. In the paper, Gries “argues that an introductory course (and its successor) in programming should be concerned with three aspects of programming: 1. How to solve problems, 2. How to describe an algorithmic solution to a problem, and 3. How to verify that an algorithm is correct. In this paper he discusses mainly the first two aspects. He notes that the third is just as important, but if the first two are carried out in a systematic fashion, the third is much easier than commonly supposed.”