Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Mohammadi-Aragh, Jean

Committee Member

Ball, John E.

Committee Member

Jones, Bryan

Committee Member

Luo, Chaomin

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Electrical and Computer Engineering

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


James Worth Bagley College of Engineering


Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering


All engineering careers require some level of programming proficiency. However, beginning programming classes are challenging for many students. Difficulties have been well-documented and contribute to high drop-out rates which prevent students from pursuing engineering. While many approaches have been tried to improve the performance of students and reduce the dropout rate, continued work is needed. This research seeks to re-examine what items are critical for programming education and how those might inform what is taught in introductory programming classes (CS1). Following trends coming from accreditation and academic boards on the importance of professional skills, we desire to rank knowledge and professional skill areas in one list. While programming curricula focus almost exclusively on knowledge areas, integrating critical professional skill areas could provide students with a better high-level understanding of what engineering encompasses. Enhancing the current knowledge centric syllabi with critical professional skills should allow students to have better visibility into what an engineering job might be like at the earliest classes in the engineering degree. To define our list of important professional skills, we use a two-group, three-round Delphi survey to build consensus ranked lists of knowledge and professional skill areas from industry and academic experts. Performing a gap analysis between the expert groups shows that industry experts focus more on professional skills then their academic counterparts. We use this resulting list to recommend ways to further integrate professional skills into engineering programming curriculum.