Designing for assets of diverse students enrolled in a freshman-level computer science for all course

Vanessa Svihla, Woong Lim, Elizabeth Esterly, Irene Lee, Melanie Moses, Paige Prescott, Tryphenia Peele-Eady
2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition Proceedings   unpublished
Paige Prescott has been a classroom science teacher, a curriculum designer and is currently a PhD student at the University of New Mexico in the Organization, Information and Learning Sciences department where she is interested in design experiences for both adults and students as they relate to learning computer science and computational thinking. She regularly conducts teacher professional development for teachers new to computer science and has helped to develop online supports for their
more » ... inued professional growth. Abstract Proficiency in computer science skills is crucial for today's students to succeed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields and the modern workforce. Despite this fact, few universities count computer science (CS) classes toward the core curriculum. Our university, a Hispanic-and minority-serving research-intensive university located in the American Southwest, recently began counting CS towards fulfilling the laboratory science requirement in the undergraduate core curriculum. This allowed us to consider the characteristics of the students who enrolled in a freshman-level CS course (N=31 students) to identify assets they bring from their diverse life experiences that we might build upon in teaching them. We sought student perceptions of existing curricular modules, in terms of ownership and creativity. Students completed pre-course surveys about their CS interests, beliefs, prior knowledge and experiences, along with demographics. They completed a brief survey to evaluate some of the modules. We examined descriptive statistics, then conducted tests of difference to identify students' assets. We explored contrasts between 1) first-generation college students and their traditional peers; and 2) students from historically underrepresented and well-represented groups in computer science. Students who were first in their family to attend college were significantly likelier to agree that CS is important for everyone to study, but also likelier to acknowledge being nervous. This finding suggests that creating a supportive learning environment that enables students to experience relevant CS is integral to retaining first-generation college students in CS. Students from underrepresented groups were significantly likelier to agree that CS is important for solving science problems and for helping people understand problem solving using technology. This finding suggests that our approach, which combines programming and modeling to solve science problems, may be a particularly productive fit for these students.
doi:10.18260/1-2--28127 fatcat:svgugsugizh7tg4zss5crlue2u