Although women earned 50% of bachelor’s degrees in science and engineering, they accounted for only 17.9% in computing (NSF, 2016). The Integrated Education Data System reported only 8.4% of all bachelor’s degree in computing went to Latinx students (CRA, 2017). Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) enroll almost half of Hispanic students attending college (Conrad and Gasman, 2015) but share challenges similar to non-doctoral granting, minority serving institutions: faculty have high teaching loads, lack funds to participate in professional meetings, have minimal or no professional training to learn new pedagogical methods, and rely heavily on (likely outdated) textbook resources in teaching (Stephenson et al., 2018). Locally, California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) and MiraCostaCommunity College (MCC), both HSI’s with close to 40% of CS majors as underrepresented minorities (URM), have seen Drop/Fail/Withdraw rates as high one-third to one-half in introductory computer science courses.
Moreover, these introductory computer science courses are often noted for their silent classrooms, no group work, and individualized testing and projects, with the disciplinary cultural norm being one of individualized, passive learning. The typical course meeting pattern demands instructors to focus lecture time on speaking at students and disseminating a large amount of information. Relationship building is seen as a secondary issue related to classroom management more than to learning (Hammond 2014). Students often stay silent throughout lecture. The lack of interaction continues outside of the class meetings. Most students rarely take advantage of office hours or participate in study groups. This is especially challenging for women and URM students who struggle with imposter syndrome.
“Giving Ownership of Active Learning to Students in Computer Science” (GOALS in CS) addresses the high rates of students not passing introductory Computer Science (CS) classes. In this project, a collaborative and interdisciplinary team from California State University San Marcos and MiraCosta College will implement an iterative design and development education research process to create innovative hybrid offerings of the introductory CS sequence, recognized in California as C-ID COMP 122 and 132. In contrast to successful CS interventions in high schools, the college introductory CS curriculum typically focuses on how computers interpret instructions and relies on unduly difficult, abstract mathematical models. Pedagogically, the traditional lecture-heavy structure of college CS courses is in stark contrast to successful CS interventions in high school, lacking both real-world problems and the opportunities for students to use prior knowledge and background. They also do not utilize community-building pedagogy, which is a successful strategy to engage women and underrepresented minorities.
Partnering with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) Silicon Valley, this project’s interdisciplinary team will take a “bottom-up” approach to COMP 122 and 132 course re-design with feedback and focus groups from students and faculty. Using the CMU Open Learning Initiative (OLI) platform, the project will develop a comprehensive skill map for learning objectives in COMP 122 and 132, create culturally responsive learning resources and activities, and build a variety of student-focused and selectable modules that are adaptive to students’ personal characteristics, background contexts, and learning experiences. In addition to online modules with learning goals assigned and assessed throughout the week, the newly developed courses will include weekly face-to-face lab activities that engage students in project-based learning and help students navigate and better understand the discipline of CS, thereby empowering students at the introductory level to gain a cognitive map of the field itself.
We anticipate up to 15 faculty and around 1,000 students will have been involved in this project over the duration of the grant.