Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Computer Sciences

Publication Details

Submitted to Technological University Dublin in the fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, 2021.


First year, undergraduate computing students experience a series of well-known challenges when learning how to design and develop software solutions. These challenges, which include a failure to engage effectively with planning solutions prior to implementation ultimately impact upon the students’ competency and their retention beyond the first year of their studies. In the software industry, software development processes systematically guide the development of software solutions through iterations of analysis, design, implementation and testing. Industry-standard processes are, however, unsuitable for novice programmers as they require prior programming knowledge. This study investigates how a researcher-designed educational software development process could be created for novice undergraduate learners, and the impact of this process on their competence in learning how to develop software solutions.

Based on an Action Research methodology that ran over three cycles, this research demonstrates how an educational software development methodology (termed FRESH) and its operationalised process (termed CADET which is a concrete implementation of the FRESH methodology), was designed and implemented as an educational tool for enhancing student engagement and competency in software development. Through CADET, students were reframed as software developers who understand the value in planning and developing software solutions, and not as programmers who prematurely try to implement solutions. While there remain opportunities to further enhance the technical sophistication of the process as it is implemented in practice, CADET enabled the software development steps of analysis and design to be explicit elements of developing software solutions, rather than their more typically implicit inclusion in introductory CS courses.

The research contributes to the field of computing education by exploring the possibilities of – and by concretely generating – an appropriate scaffolded methodology and process; by illustrating the use of computational thinking and threshold concepts in software development; and by providing a novel evaluation framework (termed AKM-SOLO) to aid in the continuous improvement of educational processes and courses by measuring student learning experiences and competencies.