SICSA Distinguished Visiting Fellow Talk – Dr Leo Porter: Development and use of a Basic Data Structures Concept Inventory

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Date(s) - 30/05/2022
12:00 pm - 2:00 pm

This is to announce a series of talks by our SICSA distinguished visiting fellow, Leo Porter, from the University of California, San Diego. He is going to talk in two main areas:

  • Peer Instruction (Monday 16th)
  • The development of a data structures inventory for use in formative and summative assessment. (Monday 30th May)

For each topic, he will first talk about the theory underpinning the work and key research results, and then, after a break, present a more interactive session to explore how we might adopt this work in our own teaching.

These will be hybrid sessions, with discussion both in-person and on Zoom, and the opportunity for on-line attendees to ask questions of the speaker.

LOCATION: Hybrid – SAWB 422 (School of CS, Glasgow) & CCSE Zoom Room (


Session 1: 12:00-12:50 – BDSI: A Concept Inventory for Basic Data Structures with Evidence of Validity

A Concept Inventory (CI) is a validated assessment to measure student conceptual understanding of a particular topic. In this talk, I will present a CI for Basic Data Structures (BDSI) and the process by which the CI was designed and validated. Included in this process was: gaining consensus from a number of faculty at diverse institutions on what belongs on the instrument, conducting interviews with students to identify their conceptions and misconceptions of the content, development and refinement of the CI questions using both qualitative and quantitative methods, and a statistical evaluation of final versions of the instrument to ensure its internal validity. Lastly, I will go over how one might apply a similar process to develop similar instruments for other computer science classes.

Session 2: 13:10-14:00 – Using and Interpreting the Basic Data Structures Inventory (BDSI)

For faculty interested in using the BDSI either for teaching or research purposes, this talk will discuss how to administer the assessment including tips to ensure that the process is valuable for instructors and students alike. In addition, I will run an activity with audience participation to present the results from having used the instrument at a collection of diverse institutions to help instructors and researchers interpret their own findings.


Leo Porter is an Associate Teaching Professor in the Computer Science and Engineering Department at UC San Diego. He is best known for his research on the impact of Peer Instruction in computing courses, the use of clicker data to predict student outcomes, and the development of the Basic Data Structures Concept Inventory. He co-teaches the popular Coursera Specialization “Object-Oriented Java Programming: Data Structures and Beyond” with over 300,000 enrolled learners and the first course in the edX MicroMasters in Data Science, “Python for Data Science”, with over 200,000 enrolled learners. He has received six Best Paper Awards, SIGCSEs 50th Year Anniversary Top Ten Symposium Papers of All Time Award, an Outstanding Teaching Award from Warren College, and the Academic Senate Distinguished Teaching Award at UC San Diego. He is a Distinguished Member of the ACM and currently serves as Secretary of the SIGCSE Board.

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