NSF Supports Diversity in Computing

Colleen Lewis is working to improve the culture of computer science across computer science departments in the U.S. One aspect of that work is developing education practices that support students from groups that are underrepresented in computing.

A new partnership between two existing NSF-funded infrastructures—the Computing Research Association’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CRA CERP) and CSTeachingTips.org—aims to connect student-level data with department-level education practices to provide the computing community with empirically grounded best practices that support efforts for broadening participation in computing.

Lewis, the McGregor-Girand Associate Professor of Computer Science, worked with over 30 undergraduate researchers to develop CSTeachingTips.org, a platform for documenting and disseminating effective teaching practices. The new project combines CERP’s data collection infrastructure and CSTeachingTips’ expertise in disseminating computing education practices.

Student data on learning experiences and persistence in computing career paths is collected through an existing CERP survey completed by over 7,000 undergraduate students per year.

Lewis believes the research “could identify which of the things we do at Harvey Mudd are most correlated with success in broadening participation in computing,” she says.

To disseminate results of the research to the wider computing community, Lewis intends to visit computer science departments at several colleges to encourage them to use the current best practices. She’ll also promote the best practices via CSTeachingTips.org.

The project, “Developing Evidence-based Best Practices for Broadening Participation in Computing Education,” will last five years and provide opportunities for student involvement. “Students in my CS Education Research Seminar (CS106) will be pitching research projects using the data,” Lewis says. “Hopefully, I’ll recruit some of them to continue on in the spring to work on the project and test the hypotheses they propose in their research project pitches.”