Posts tagged ‘higher education’
Check out the headline “Can early computer science education boost number of women in tech?” Then read the part (quoted below) where they show what works at Harvey Mudd. I don’t read anything there about early CS education. I do believe that we need CS in high schools to improve diversity in computing, but I’m not sure that much earlier than high school helps much. I worry about higher education giving up on issues of diversity, by changing the discussion to K12.
I wish that Mercury News would have really said what they found: University Computing Programs, you have the power to improve your diversity! You can change your classes and your culture! Don’t just pass the buck to K12 schools!
“The difference is, females in general are much more interested in what you can do with the technology, than with just the technology itself,” says Harvey Mudd President Maria Klawe, a computer scientist herself.
So administrators created an introductory course specifically for students without programming experience. They emphasized coding’s connection to other disciplines. They paid for freshman women to attend the annual Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, a chance to meet programming role models in diverse fields. And they provided early research opportunities for women students to inspire them to stick with the field.
The result? The percentage of female computer science majors at Harvey Mudd increased from about 10 percent before the initiatives to 43 percent today.
California community colleges’ experiment with accelerated remediation: Maybe there’s more learning going on
Remedial courses in higher-education are important to get right, for lots of reasons. Certainly, that’s one of the big stumbling blocks in MOOCs — many people who start a MOOC aren’t prepared for that level material (or maybe, the MOOCs presume too much knowledge to start). The CAITE alliance was able to improve diversity in Massachusetts’ universities, by improving the transfer from community college, but that path sometimes requires remedial courses. If we could get remediation right, we might improve diversity, make distance learning more successful, and (as suggested below) improve graduation rates.
The story below is unusual: Make remediation better, by making it shorter. A simple time-on-task model would suggest that there’s less being learned. I hypothesize that it might be working (i.e., resulting in more learning), by looking at it from a different model.
At the Future Computer Science Research Summit in Orlando in early January, Nobel laureate Carl Wieman gave a talk where he referenced the famous Richard Hake 6000 subject study. One of the results of that study is that traditional lecture only results in students learning about 30-40 percent of what was being taught, but with student engagement pedagogies, 60-80 percent is learned.
Note the word: engagement. We can engage by using techniques like peer instruction. I wonder if we can also engage by saying, “This required course will be made shorter. You still need it to move on to something you want, but now, it’s less painful.” Could that result in more learning? Maybe that 30-40% becomes 50-60%? So a reduction of a few weeks in time may actually result in equal or more learning?
Remedial courses are widely seen as one of the biggest stumbling blocks to improving college graduation rates, as few students who place into remediation ever earn a degree.
The problem is particularly severe for black and Hispanic students, who account for almost half of the California community college system’s total enrollment of 2.4 million.
More than 50 percent of black and Hispanic community college students place three or more levels below college mathematics, said Myra Snell, a math professor at Los Medanos College. And only 6 percent of those remedial students will complete a credit-bearing math course within three years of starting the first remedial course.
A key reason for abysmal pass rates is the length of remedial sequences, argue Snell and Katie Hern, an English instructor at Chabot College, which, like Los Medanos, is a two-year institution located in California.
“The lower down you start, the fewer students complete,” Hern said.
The two instructors decided to do something about the problem. In 2010 they founded the California Acceleration Project. Armed with research from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advanced of Teaching and the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College, they encouraged their peers to offer shorter remedial sequences in math and English.
A slightly different pattern for me: Check out the quote first, and I’ll add comments after.
Let us consider the conundrum facing the computer field in higher education first. It is experiencing an exponentially increasing demand for its product with an inelastic labor supply. How has it reacted? NSF has made a survey of the responses of engineering departments, including computer science departments in schools of engineering, to the increasing demand for undergraduate education in engineering. There is a consistent pattern in their responses and the results can be applied without exception to the computer field whether the departments are located in engineering schools or elsewhere. 80% of the universities are responding by increasing teaching loads, 50% by decreasing course offerings and concentrating their available faculty on larger but fewer courses, and 66% are using more graduate-student teaching assistants or part-time faculty. 35% report reduced research opportunities for faculty as a result. In brief, they are using a combination of rational management measures to adjust as well as they can to the severe manpower constraints under which they must operate. However, these measures make the universities’ environments less attractive for employment and are exactly counterproductive to their need to maintain and expand their labor supply. They are also counterproductive to producing more new faculty since the image graduate students get of academic careers is one of harassment, frustration, and too few rewards. The universities are truly being choked by demand for their own product and have a formidable people-flow problem, analogous to but much more difficult to address than the cash-flow problem which often afflicts rapidly growing businesses. There are no manpower banks which can provide credit.
This quote was presented by Eric Roberts in his keynote earlier this month at the NSF-sponsored Future Computing Education Research Summit (well organized by Steve Cooper). The highlight is my addition, because I was struck by the specificity of the description. I find the description believable, and it captures the problems of CS higher-education today, especially in the face of rising enrollments in CS classes (discussed by Eric Roberts here and by Ed Lazowka and Dave Patterson here).
What makes this analysis scarier is that the paper quoted was published in 1982. Back in the 1980′s, the state Universities had the mandate and the budget to grow to meet the demand. They didn’t always have the CS PhD graduates that they needed, so some Math and EE PhDs became CS faculty. Today, though, the state Universities are under severe budget constraints. How will we meet the demand in enrollment? In the 1980′s, some CS programs met the demand by raising the bar for entering the CS major, which ended up make CS more white and male (because only the more privileged students were able to stay above the bar). Will our solutions lead to less diversity in CS? Will we lose more faculty to industry, and replace them with MOOCs?
The blog article linked below is pretty interesting. The lack of respect for academic freedom here is disappointing, but not uncommon. More shocking is the Kansas Board of Regents decision that faculty can be fired for saying things in social media “contrary to the best interest of the university.” (I could have been fired for my Swiki post under these rules.)
And on this note, I’m going to take a break from this blog for the holidays (Christmas and New Year’s for me and my family). If something urgent comes up, I’ll post, but I’m going to take some time to focus elsewhere. Thanks for reading, and best wishes to you and your loved ones for the holiday season.
But the university — where administrators have frequently clashed with faculty members — this week is demanding the shutdown of a faculty blog that has been highly critical of the university. The chief lawyer for the university sent a “cease and desist” letter to the professors who run the blog demanding that they shut it down.
The letter says that they can’t use the university’s name or symbols, and further the letter cites the blog’s content, saying that “the lack of civility and professionalism expressed on the blog violates the university’s values and policies.”
What would you accept as evidence in support of this claim? I don’t see it where I’m at, but I’m willing to believe that my experience is biased and limited. How could we test this claim?
The president of the Association of American Universities said on Monday that public research institutions were once again moving forward, thanks to a renewed focus on undergraduate education and a willingness to “be extremely aggressive” in taking advantage of new financing opportunities.
Hunter R. Rawlings III said that, for the first time in his career, senior faculty members were spending time and effort on teaching. “Our main job at universities is educating students,” he said during a panel discussion here at this week’s annual meeting of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. “We forgot about that for a while. But now it has hit us with full force because tuition increases have caused the public to be angry, or skeptical at least, about the quality and the value proposition that they’re getting.”
I like that “software designers” is part of the story.
The first lady will add that whether students want to be doctors, teachers, mechanics or software designers, “you have got to do whatever it takes to continue your education after high school — whether that’s going to a community college, or getting a technical certificate, or completing a training opportunity, or heading off to a four-year college.”
Aides in Mrs. Obama’s office said she would visit other schools around the country and use social media to appeal to students, conveying the message that higher education is a door to a wider world.
The linked article below provides results I’ve seen before — that the average income of college-educated is much higher than the non-college-educated. I had not yet seen the below claim: Most inventors and entrepreneurs, the individuals who impact economic growth, are also predominantly college educated. The model of the college-dropout entrepreneur is the exception, not the rule. This is important for computing, too, where our model of the dropout CEO of the startup is legendary — but really rare. If you want to create a computing company, you’re best off getting computing education.
Those who most directly impact economic growth—inventors and entrepreneurs—also tend to be highly educated. A Georgia Tech survey of patent inventors found that 92 percent had a bachelor’s degree, almost exclusively in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. Likewise, almost all of the founders (92 percent) of the high-tech companies that have powered GDP in recent decades are college educated, especially in STEM fields. Thus, it is no surprise that macroeconomic research finds very large gains from education on economic growth at both the international and regional levels, as the research of Harvard’s Ed Glaeser and many others has shown.
I know faculty at both KSU and SPSU. My PhD student, Briana Morrison, is faculty at SPSU. No one that I spoke to had any idea this was happening. These aren’t small schools. SPSU is one of the few universities in Georgia with a publicly-funded engineering program. KSU+SPSU is considerably larger than Georgia Tech. Is this part of the consolidation of higher education foretold by the MOOCopalyptic visions?
Kennesaw State University and Southern Polytechnic State University will consolidate to form a new institution to be named Kennesaw State University. The Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia will be asked by Chancellor Hank Huckaby to approve the consolidation plan during its upcoming November meeting.
“We must continue to carefully examine our structure and programs to ensure we have the right model that best serves our students and the state,” Huckaby said. “This proposal offers us some exciting possibilities to enlarge our academic outreach through the existing talent and resources at both these institutions.”
The decision to consolidate the two institutions, whose combined enrollment this fall is 31,178 students and combined annual economic impact on the region is $1.15 billion
I have a CS Ed PhD depth exam meeting later this morning. One of the committee members can’t make it, because she’s a UK faculty member who is going on strike today. (BBC coverage here.)
The concerns of the strikers (press release linked below) seem pretty similar to the issues that we have in the United States: No pay raises for faculty (University System of Georgia faculty haven’t had a pay raise since 2008), big salaries for upper administration, and increasing middle management bloat. Interesting to see if this picks up on this side of the Atlantic.
UCU, UNISON and Unite trade unions announced today that their members working in higher education will walk out on Thursday 31 October in an increasingly bitter row over pay.
Staff have been offered a pay rise of just 1% this year, which means they have suffered a pay cut of 13% in real terms since October 2008. Will Hutton this weekend highlighted that as one the most sustained cut in wages since the Second World War.
The squeeze on staff pay comes at a time when pay and benefits for university leaders increased, on average, by more than £5,000 in 2011-12, with the average pay and pensions package for vice-chancellors hitting almost £250,000.
I have a theory that predicts when (if?) we will see more computing education research students in the US. I think that it might also help understand when computer science education (e.g., an AP course in CS) might reach the majority of US high schools.
Why are there so few CS Ed research students in the US?
Recently, I hosted a visit from Dr. Nick Falkner (Associate Dean (IT), Faculty of Engineering, Mathematical and Computer Sciences) and Dr. Katrina Falkner (Deputy Head and Director of Teaching, School of Computer Science) from the University of Adelaide. We got to talking about the lack of CS education research (CER) graduate students in the United States. There are lots of PhD students studying CER in Australasia, Europe, and Israel. To offer a comparison point, when we visited Melbourne in 2011, they had just held a doctoral consortium in CS Ed with 20 students attending, all from just the Melbourne area. The ICER doctoral consortium at UCSD in August had 14 students, and not all 14 were from the US. The Australasian Computing Education will have its own DC, and they’re capping enrollment at 10, but there are far more CER PhD students than that in the region. I get invitations regularly to serve on review committees for dissertations from Australia and Europe, but rarely from the US.
Why is CER so much more popular among graduate students outside of the US? I’ve wondered if it’s an issue of funding for research, or how graduate students are recruited. Then it occurred to us.
Check out the Falkners’ titles: Associate Dean, Deputy Head (Katrina will be Head of School next year), Director. I remarked on that, and Nick and Katrina started naming other CS education research faculty who were Chairs, full Professors, and Deans and Directors in Australia. We went on naming other CS education researchers in high positions in New Zealand (e.g., Tim Bell, Professor and Deputy Head of Department), England (e.g., the great Computing Education Group at Kent), Denmark (e.g., Michael Caspersen as Director of the Center for Science Education), Sweden (e.g., CS Education Research at Uppsala), Finland, Germany, and Israel.
Then I was challenged to name:
- US CS Education researchers who are full Professors at research intensive universities;
- US CS Education researchers who are Chairs of their departments or schools;
- US CS Education researchers who are Deans or Center Directors.
I’m sure that there would be some quibbling if I tried to name US researchers in these categories. I don’t think anyone would disagree that none of these categories requires more than one hand to count — and I don’t think anyone needs more than a couple fingers for that last category.
We have great computing education researchers in the United States. Few are in these kinds of positions of visible prestige and authority. Many in the ICER community are at teaching institutions. Many who are at research intensive universities are in teaching track positions.
Computing Education Research is not as respected in US universities as it is in other countries. In these other countries, a graduate student could pursue computing education research, and might still be able to achieve tenure, promotion, and even an administrative position in prestigious institutions. That’s really rare in the United States.
There are many reasons why there isn’t more CER in research-intensive universities. Maybe there’s not enough funding in CER (which is an outcome of lack of respect/value). Most people don’t buy into computing for all in the US. Unless there’s more CER in schools, maybe we don’t need much CER in Universities. I’m actually not addressing why CER gets less respect in the US than in other countries — I’m hypothesizing a relationship between two variables because of that lack of respect.
The status of CER is definitely on the mind of students when they are considering CER as a research area. I’ve lost students to other areas of research when they realize that CER is a difficult academic path in the US. My first CS advisor at U-Michigan (before Elliot Soloway moved there) was strongly against my plans for a joint degree with education. “No CS department will hire you, and if they do, they won’t tenure you.” I succeeded into that first category (there was luck and great mentors involved). It’s hard for me to say if my personal path could ever reach categories 2 or 3, and if barriers I meet are due more to my research area than my personal strengths and weaknesses. All I can really say for sure is that, if you look around, there aren’t many CER people in those categories, which means that there is no obvious evidence to a graduate student that they can reach those kinds of success.
So, here’s my hypothesis:
Hypothesis: We will see more computing education research graduate students in the US when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.
Why is there so little computing education in US high schools?
Other countries have a lot more computing education in their high schools than we do in the United States. Israel, New Zealand, Denmark, and England all have national curricula that include significant computer science. In Israel, you can even pursue a software engineering track in high school. They all have an advantage over the US, since we have no national curricula at all. However, Germany, which has a similarly distributed education model, still has much more advanced computing education curricula (the state of Bavaria has a computing curriculum for grades 6-12) and CS teacher professional development. What’s different?
I suspect that there are similar factors at work in schools as in Universities. Computing education is not highly valued in US society. That gets reflected in decisions at both the University and school systems. I don’t know much about influence relationships between the University and the K-12 system. I have suggested that we will not have a stable high school CS education program in the United States without getting the Schools of Education engaged in teacher pre-service education. I don’t know how changes in one influence the other.
However, I see a strong correlation, caused by an external social factor — maybe some of those I mentioned earlier (not enough funding for CER, don’t need more CER, etc.). Professors and University administrators are not separate from their societies and cultures. The same values and influences are present in the University as in the society at large. What the society values has an influence on what the University values. If a change occurs in the values in the society, then the University values will likely change. I don’t know if it works in the other way.
So here’s where I go further out on a limb:
Second Hypothesis: We will see the majority of US high schools offering computer science education (e.g., AP CS) when CER is a reasonable path to tenure, promotion, and advancement in research-intensive US universities.
Here are two examples to support the hypothesis:
- Consider Physics. No one doubts the value of physics. Within society, we’re willing to spend billions to find a Higgs Boson, because we value physics. Similarly, we strive to offer physics education to every high school student. Similarly, physics faculty can aspire to become Deans and even University Presidents. Physics is valued by society and the University.
- Consider Engineering Education Research. Twenty years ago, engineering education research was uncommon, and it had little presence in K-12 schools. Today, there are several Engineering Education academic units in the US — at Purdue, Clemson, and Virginia Tech. (There’s quite a list here.) Engineering education researchers can get tenured, promoted, and even become head of an engineering education research academic unit. And, Engineering is now taught in K-12 schools. Recently, I’ve been involved in an effort to directly interview kids in schools that offer AP CS. We can hardly find any! Several of the schools in the Atlanta area that used to offer AP CS now offer Engineering classes instead. (Maybe the belief is that engineers will take care of our CS/IT needs in the US?) Engineering has a significant presence in K-12 education today.
I don’t think that this hypothesis works as a prescriptive model. I’m not saying, “If we just create some computing education research units, we’ll get CS into high schools!” I don’t know that there is much more CS Ed in schools in Australia, Sweden, or Finland than in the US, where CER is a path to advancement. I hypothesize a correlation. If we see changes at the Universities, we’ll be seeing changes in schools. I expect that the reverse will also be true — if we ever see the majority of US high schools with CS, the Universities will support the effort. But I thnk that the major influencer on both of these is the perception of CER in the larger society. I’m hypothesizing that both will change if the major influence changes.
(Thanks to Briana Morrison, Barbara Ericson, Amy Bruckman, and Betsy DiSalvo on an earlier draft of this post.)
I’m interested in the discussions about corporate involvement in higher education, but am still trying to understand all the issues (e.g., who has a bigger stake and greater responsibility for higher education, industry or government). The point made below is one that I have definite opinions about. If we’re trying to improve higher education, why not try to make it more effective rather than just lower cost? I disagree with the below that we have to have 16:1 student:teacher ratios to have effective learning. We can increase those student numbers, with good pedagogy, to still get good learning — if we really do focus on good learning. Why is all the focus on getting rid of the faculty? Reducing the labor costs by simply removing the labor is unlikely to produce a good product.
There is a lot wrong in this apples to oranges comparison, but the point is obvious—cutting labor costs is the path to “education reform,” not research and improved pedagogy. This is “reform” we need to reject when applied to public education. I say this without reservation: when it comes to education, you pay for what is most effective. Period. If small class sizes produce better teaching and learning, then that’s what you support when appropriate. Whatever your approach, stop conflating economic restructuring and education reform; it’s dishonest.
I spent a couple days at Michigan State University (July 11-12) learning about integrated engineering education. The idea of integrated engineering education is to get students to see how the mathematics and physics (and other requirements) fit into their goals of becoming engineers. In part, it’s a response to students learning calculus here and physical principles there, but having no idea what role they play when it comes to design and solving real engineering problems. (Computer science hasn’t played a significant role in previous experiments in integrated engineering education, but if one were to do it today, you probably would include CS — that’s why I was invited, as someone interested in CS for other disciplines.) The results of integrated engineering education are positive, including higher retention (a pretty consistent result across all the examples we saw), higher GPA’s (often), and better learning (some data).
But these programs rarely last. A program at U. Massachusetts-Dartmouth is one of the longest running (9 years), but it’s gone through extensive revision — not clear it’s the same program. These are hard programs to get set up. It is an even bigger challenge to sustain them.
The programs lie across a spectrum of integration. The most intense was a program at Rose-Hulman that lasted for five years. All the core first year engineering courses were combined in a single 12 credit hour course, co-taught by faculty from all the relevant disciplines. That’s tight integration. On the other end is a program at Wright State University, where the engineering faculty established a course on “Engineering Math” that meets Calculus I requirements for Physics, but is all about solving problems (e.g., using real physical units) that involve calculus. The students still take Calculus I, but later. The result is higher retention and students who get the purpose for the mathematics — but at a cost of greater disconnect between Engineering and mathematics. (No math faculty are involved in the Engineering Math course.)
My most significant insight was: The greater the integration, the greater the need for incentives. And the greater the need for the incentives, the higher in the organization you need support. If you just want to set up a single course to help Engineers understand problem-solving with mathematics, you can do that with your department or school, and you only have to provide incentives to a single faculty member each year. If you want to do something across departments, you need greater incentives to keep it going, and you’ll need multiple chairs or deans. If you want a 12 credit hour course that combines four or five disciplines, maybe you need the Provost or President to make it happen and keep it going.
Overall, I wasn’t convinced that integrated engineering education efforts are worth the costs. Are the results that we have merely a Hawthorne effect? It’s hard to sustain integrated anything in American universities (as Cuban told us in “How Scholars Trumped Teachers”). (Here’s an interesting review of Cuban’s book.) Retention is good and important (especially of women and under-represented students), but if Engineering programs are already over-subscribed (which many in the workshop were), then why improvement retention of students in the first year if there is no space for them in the latter years? Integration probably leads to better learning, but there are deeper American University structural problems to fix first, which would reduce the costs in doing the right things for learning.
I’ve just started my subscription to The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the first print issue I received had a great article about Carl Wieman, whom I have written about previously (here and here and here, for just three). The story (online here: Crusader for Better Science Teaching Finds Colleges Slow to Change – Government – The Chronicle of Higher Education) was about his efforts to get the White House to measure teaching practices.
At the White House, Mr. Wieman tried to figure out what might actually get colleges and their faculty members to adopt proven teaching practices. His centerpiece idea was that American colleges and universities, in order to remain eligible for the billions of dollars the federal government spends annually on scientific research, should be required to have their faculty members spend a few minutes each year answering a questionnaire that would ask about their usual types of assignments, class materials, student interaction, and lecture and discussion styles.
Mr. Wieman believed that a moment or two of pondering such concepts might lead some instructors to reconsider their approaches. Also, Mr. he says, data from the responses might give parents and prospective students the power to choose colleges that use the most-proven teaching methods. He hoped the survey idea could be realized as either an act of Congress or a presidential executive order.
I hadn’t heard about this survey, but my immediate thought was, “What a great idea!” We need better ways to measure teaching (like with Sadler’s recent work), and this seems like a great first step. I was surprised to read the response
College leaders derided it as yet another unnecessary intrusion by government into academic matters.
“Linking federal funding for scientific research to pedagogical decisions of the faculty would have set a terrible precedent for policy makers,” said Princeton University’s Shirley M. Tilghman, one of several presidents of major research institutions who wrote to the White House to complain about Mr. Wieman’s idea. “It is naïve to think that the ‘surveys’ will not have consequences down the line.”
Wouldn’t “consequences” be a good thing? Shouldn’t we reward schools that are doing more to improve teaching and adopt better practices? Shouldn’t we incentivize schools to do better at teaching? I guess I’m the one who is naïve — I was surprised that there was so much resistance. In the end, Wieman lost the battle. He’s now left the White House, dealing with multiple myeloma.
Perhaps the saddest line in the piece is this one:
“I’m not sure what I can do beyond what I’ve already done,” Mr. Wieman says.
Is it really impossible to get universities to take teaching seriously?
Diana Franklin has just published a new book with Morgan & Claypool, A Practical Guide to Gender Diversity for Computer Science Faculty. This is exciting to see. I can’t recommend it yet, just because I haven’t read it. What’s great is that it’s a book on how to teach computing — and there are just far too few of those. Other than the Logo books and the Guide to Teaching CS (from Orit Hazzan et al.), there’s not much to help new CS teachers. So glad that Diana has written this book!
Computer science faces a continuing crisis in the lack of females pursuing and succeeding in the field. Companies may suffer due to reduced product quality, students suffer because educators have failed to adjust to diverse populations, and future generations suffer due to a lack of role models and continued challenges in the environment. In this book, we draw on the latest research in sociology, psychology, and education to first identify why we should be striving for gender diversity (beyond social justice), refuting misconceptions about the differing potentials between females and males. We then provide a set of practical types (with brief motivations) for improving your work with undergraduates taking your courses. This is followed by in-depth discussion of the research behind the tips, presenting obstacles that females face in a number of areas. Finally, we provide tips for advising undergraduate independent projects or graduate students, supporting female faculty, and initiatives requiring action at the institutional level (department or above).
Interesting results! My President is gung-ho on MOOCs (e.g., sending email out saying that half of the University System of Georgia schools will cease to exist in their current form over the next five years), as is my Provost and my Dean (who sends articles about MOOCs to the faculty weekly). Maybe that’s not so common?
“Based on these findings, it’s clear that the U.Va. situation is just a canary in the coal mine,” said Brandon H. Busteed, executive director of Gallup Education. “College presidents, writ large, are extremely skeptical about the value of MOOCs as it relates to reducing cost, improving quality, and even expanding reach. And with governing boards that have strong business backgrounds and have been reading all of Clay Christensen’s writing about how online education and MOOCs will change the world, there’s bound to be big clashes ahead at most — not just some — institutions.”