How students reason about Cybersecurity concepts

Travis Scheponik, Alan T. Sherman, David DeLatte, Dhananjay Phatak, Linda Oliva, Julia Thompson, Geoffrey L. Herman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Despite the documented need to train and educate more cybersecurity professionals, we have little rigorous evidence to inform educators on effective ways to engage, educate, or retain cybersecurity students. To begin addressing this gap in our knowledge, we are conducting a series of think-aloud interviews with cybersecurity students to study how students reason about core cybersecurity concepts. We have recruited these students from three diverse institutions: University of Maryland, Baltimore County, Prince George's Community College, and Bowie State University. During these interviews, students grapple with security scenarios designed to probe student understanding of cybersecurity, especially adversarial thinking. We are analyzing student statements using a structured qualitative method, novice-led paired thematic analysis, to document student misconceptions and problematic reasonings. We intend to use these findings to develop Cybersecurity Assessment Tools that can help us assess the effectiveness of pedagogies. These findings can also inform the development of curricula, learning exercises, and other educational materials and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFIE 2016 - Frontiers in Education 2016
Subtitle of host publicationThe Crossroads of Engineering and Business
PublisherInstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.
ISBN (Electronic)9781509017904
StatePublished - Nov 28 2016
Event46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016 - Erie, United States
Duration: Oct 12 2016Oct 15 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings - Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE
ISSN (Print)1539-4565


Other46th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference, FIE 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


  • Cognitive interviews
  • Cybersecurity
  • Cybersecurity Assessment Tools (CATS)
  • Misconceptions
  • Thematic analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Education
  • Computer Science Applications


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