Posts tagged ‘NCWIT’
SIGCSE 2016 Preview: Parsons Problems and Subgoal Labeling, and Improving Female Pass Rates on the AP CS exam
Our research group has two papers at this year’s SIGCSE Technical Symposium.
Subgoals help students solve Parsons Problems by Briana Morrison, Lauren Margulieux, Barbara Ericson, and Mark Guzdial. (Thursday 10:45-12, MCCC: L5-L6)
This is a continuation of our subgoal labeling work, which includes Lauren’s original work showing how subgoal labels improved learning, retention and transfer in learning App Inventor (see summary here), the 2015 ICER Chairs Paper Award-winning paper from Briana and Lauren showing that subgoals work for text languages (see this post for summary), and Briana’s recent dissertation proposal where she explores the cognitive load implications for learning programming (see this post for summary). This latest paper shows that subgoal labels improve success at Parson’s Problems, too. One of the fascinating results in this paper is that Parson’s Problems are more sensitive as a learning assessment than asking students to write programs.
Sisters Rise Up 4 CS: Helping Female Students Pass the Advanced Placement Computer Science A Exam by Barbara Ericson, Miranda Parker, and Shelly Engelman. (Friday 10:45-12, MCCC: L2-L3)
Barb has been developing Project Rise Up 4 CS to support African-American students in succeeding at the AP CS exam (see post here from RESPECT and this post here from last year’s SIGCSE). Sisters Rise Up 4 CS is a similar project targeting female students. These are populations that have lower pass rates than white or Asian males. These are examples of supporting equality and not equity. This paper introduces Sisters Rise Up 4 CS and contrasts it with Project Rise Up 4 CS. Barb has resources to support people who want to try these interventions, including a how-to ebook at http://ice-web.cc.gatech.edu/ce21/SRU4CS/index.html and an ebook for students to support preparation for the AP CS A.
Dan is one of the best computer science teachers I know, and I strongly agree with the goals he describes below. I’m not sure how much intro courses can do to recruit more diverse students. At Georgia Tech, Media Computation has been over 50% female since we started in 2003, but that’s because of what majors are required to take it and the gender distribution in those majors. I know that Harvey Mudd, Stanford, and Berkeley have grown their percentage of females, but their undergraduates get to choose their majors while on-campus. At schools like Georgia Tech, where students have to choose their major on the application form, the decision is made off-campus.
One clear thing we can do in undergraduate courses is retain more diverse students. In our BS in CS, we graduated 16% female BS in CS students in Spring 2015, which is pretty good. Taulbee Survey says that the national average is only 14.1% (see report here). But our enrollment in CS is 25% female. We lose a LOT of women who decide to try CS. I’ve talked about some of the reasons in past blog posts (see post here about bad teaching practices and here about my daughter’s experience in CS at Georgia Tech).
Dan Garcia says there’s another important issue: Once courses are created, educators must make sure they’re reaching a diverse audience. Women and minorities are grossly under-represented, not just in tech fields, but also in computer science classes.Teachers should shake the trees and reach out to more kinds of students, not just the student who’s doing well in math. And, he says, connect computer science to bigger, more controversial topics, Garcia says, because coding and data are connected to issues of power. With the persistent digital divide, he says, educators must ask, “What does that mean for equity? What does that mean for fairness? Privacy issues? Hopefully the curriculum brings equity as part of it,” he says.
A recent article in The Chronicle talked about just how white higher education faculty are — see article here. Most of the student protests about equity and diversity on college campuses this last year demanded more minority faculty.
In this graph, I found a different and fascinating story in just the first two bars in each set:
Professors are overwhelmingly male. Associate professors are only slightly more male. Assistant professors are slightly more female. Instructors are much more female.
It’s not surprising, but it’s interesting to see it. The women in academia have the lion’s share of the lower status jobs, and the men have the lion’s share of the higher status jobs. When you take into account the landed-gentry/tenant-farmer relationship between the tenure track faculty and the teaching track faculty (see previous blog post), the relationship between gender and academic power becomes much more stark.
Sarah Guthals, a CS Education Researcher, was identified by Forbes Magazine as one of the “30 under 30” scientists to watch in years to come. Congratulations to Sarah! She wrote an interesting blog post on imposter syndrome and the nomination.
I have suffered from imposter syndrome for at least a decade. I have worked hard, but it’s really hard for me to believe that I deserve what I have, or that the accomplishments that I’ve made are valid. I recognized my imposter syndrome when I was in my first year of grad school and since then I have been really trying to combat it — but I think instead I have just been ignoring it. Let’s see if I can explain it in the context of this weeks events.
When I found out I was nominated, I was very happy, but already feeling like a fraud. Am I really the one that should be nominated? What have I done to deserve it? I haven’t done anything alone (always had a team or partner).
Valerie Barr wrote a recent blog post about the state of the labor pool for STEM workers, especially in computing. I particularly liked her point about the need to provide learning opportunities to bring women back who have left the tech industry. Caroline Simard’s report on the needs of female mid-level tech managers (see blog post here) is what got me thinking about ebooks originally. Caroline’s female mid-level tech managers needed to learn about new technologies, while still balancing a demanding job and more family responsibilities than their male counterparts. That’s where I saw a need for something like our ebooks, to provide computing learning opportunities that fit into busy lives (see ebook post). I see Valerie calling for something similar — we need more pathways to learn about computing for adults (see blog post here), and those pathways might help us to broaden participation in computing.
It is true that the industry changes quickly in some ways, with new tools, new approaches, and new languages. But there is a rich pool of potential employees who are being completely overlooked. The many women who have left tech positions could be brought back in and given training to bring them up to speed on the newest languages and development practices. But this is a reasonable approach only if, at the same time, the tech industry makes a commitment to improving climate. There is no point in bringing back people who left tech if they are simply going to want to leave again in another 5 years. In fact, I imagine that bringing back a group of tech veterans who have greater maturity and experience could do wonders to improve climate in some of the tech companies. But the companies have to commit. And they have to recognize that you can still be a cutting edge agile company even if the average age of your employees ticks up a bit.
Lucy Sanders is one of my heroes, so I’m always happy to link to articles about her. The point she’s making below is particularly interesting, and relates to previous posts about “grit” (see link here), and to the “lean in” phenomenon.
NCWIT isn’t just about getting women into tech jobs. It’s about getting women to share their perspective and knowledge. It’s about making sure women are not avoiding those leadership jobs or shirking from innovation because of something called unconscious bias.”There’s a big conversation going on now with what we call ‘fixing women.’ You hear things like ‘If women were just more confident.’ Or ‘If women were only better risk takers.’ We don’t subscribe to that. And we don’t subscribe to men being the biased, evil ones because research shows that all of us have this bias about who does technology,” Sanders said. “The ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure women and men are innovating equally in technology.”
It’s an interesting and open question. Nathan Ensmenger suggests that we have no evidence that computer scientists need a lot of mathematics (math background has been correlated with success in CS classes, not in success in a CS career), but the emphasis on mathematics helped computing a male field (see discussion here). Mathematics has both been found to correlate with success in CS classes, and not correlate with success in object-oriented programming (excellent discussion of these pre-requisite skill studies in Michael Caspersen’s dissertation). It may be true that you don’t have to be good at mathematics to learn to code, but you may have to be good at mathematics to succeed in CS classes and to get along with others in a CS culture who assume a strong math background.
People who program video games probably need more math than the average web designer. But if you just want to code some stuff that appears on the Internet, you got all the math you’ll need when you completed the final level of Math Blaster. (Here’s a good overview of the math skills required for entry-level coding. The hardest thing appears to be the Pythagorean theorem.)