Creating a Cybersecurity Concept Inventory: A Status Report on the CATS Project

Alan T. Sherman, Linda Oliva, David DeLatte, Enis Golaszewski, Michael Neary, Konstantinos Patsourakos, Dhananjay Phatak, Travis Scheponik, Geoffrey L. Herman, Julia Thompson

We report on the status of our Cybersecurity Assessment Tools (CATS) project that is creating and validating a concept inventory for cybersecurity, which assesses the quality of instruction of any first course in cybersecurity. In fall 2014, we carried out a Delphi process that identified core concepts of cybersecurity. In spring 2016, we interviewed twenty-six students to uncover their understandings and misconceptions about these concepts. In fall 2016, we generated our first assessment tool--a draft Cybersecurity Concept Inventory (CCI), comprising approximately thirty multiple-choice questions. Each question targets a concept; incorrect answers are based on observed misconceptions from the interviews. This year we are validating the draft CCI using cognitive interviews, expert reviews, and psychometric testing. In this paper, we highlight our progress to date in developing the CCI. The CATS project provides infrastructure for a rigorous evidence-based improvement of cybersecurity education. The CCI permits comparisons of different instructional methods by assessing how well students learned the core concepts of the field (especially adversarial thinking), where instructional methods refer to how material is taught (e.g., lab-based, case-studies, collaborative, competitions, gaming). Specifically, the CCI is a tool that will enable researchers to scientifically quantify and measure the effect of their approaches to, and interventions in, cybersecurity education.

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