Mark Guzdial receives ICER Lasting Impact Award

Prof. Guzdial’s 2012 paper on subgoal-labeled instruction was recognized for its sustained influence on computing education
Mark Guzdial
Prof. Mark Guzdial

Mark Guzdial, professor of computer science and engineering and director of the Program in Computing for the Arts and Sciences (PCAS) at U-M, has been selected as the recipient of the Lasting Impact Award at the 2023 International Computing Education Research (ICER) conference. The award, given by the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education (SIGCSE), recognizes the long-lasting influence of Guzdial’s 2012 paper, “Subgoal-labeled instructional material improves performance and transfer in learning to develop mobile applications.”

ICER has been held annually since 2005 and attracts computing education experts from across the world. It aims to serve as a venue for researchers and practitioners to come together, network, and share the latest findings in the study of how people learn about computation as well as how to improve the learning process. Guzdial was one of the founders of the ICER conference.

The ICER Lasting Impact Award is awarded each year to one paper published at least 10 years prior in recognition of its sustained and significant impact on computer education. This impact is measured through citations and wide-scale adoption or adaptation of techniques outlined in the paper. 

Guzdial’s paper, coauthored with Lauren Margulieux of Georgia State University and Richard Catambrone of Georgia Tech, was selected for this award due to its contributions to introductory computer science instruction. Specifically, this research explored how implementing subgoal-labeled instructional content affected performance and cognitive load among novices learning to develop mobile applications. 

Subgoal labeling refers to the process of naming groups of steps in a process to show how these groups of steps contribute to a specific subgoal. This breaking-down of complex processes into steps and subgoals, when deployed together with other tools, was found to help promote the creation of mental models among students new to programming and improved their performance on novel tasks in the development of mobile applications. 

Guzdial’s research on this topic has since gone on to have a deep and lasting impact on the field of computing education. According to SIGCSE, this work has “spawned a wealth of research in teaching techniques that reduce cognitive load in novice computer science instruction.” By introducing and establishing the effectiveness of subgoal labeling as an instructional technique, Guzdial and his coauthors significantly advanced introductory computing instruction and helped shape the computing education space.