skip to main content


Title: Building CS Teacher Capacity Through Comprehensive College/High School Partnerships
Expanding access to and engaging diverse groups of students in high school computer science (CS) classes depends on qualified CS teachers. In this paper, we describe how faculty at our liberal arts college built CS teacher capacity at over 20 school districts through comprehensive college/high school partnerships. The majority of these districts serve rural or high-needs students, groups underrepresented in CS classrooms. The program works primarily with in-service teachers from other disciplines, helping them develop the expertise to teach CS. It is comprehensive in that it includes curricula and professional development for a high school level CS course and a dual-enrollment college level CS course, pathways to CS certification, community events, and opportunities for teacher leadership and collaboration. These modes of engagement are structured so that novice and veteran teachers and college faculty have opportunities to interact in different capacities over several years to create a robust professional learning community. Initial survey results show increasing levels of teacher confidence and sense of belonging, and increasing student confidence in their CS abilities.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1923378
NSF-PAR ID:
10338212
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
SIGCSE 2022: Proceedings of the 53rd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education
Page Range / eLocation ID:
606 - 612
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. The Exploring Computer Science (ECS) curriculum provides foundational knowledge of Computer Science (CS) to high school students as a stand-alone course. ECS began in the Los Angeles Unified School District in the late 2000s where it gained eminence for broadening participation in computing (BPC), with Latinx students representing over 70% of enrollment. This experience report describes a partnership that consists of three Universities, dozens of school districts, the ECS team, and other stakeholders to bring the ECS curriculum in mainly rural school districts in Alabama that have a majority African-American student population. Sixty in-service teachers (one teacher per school) have received professional learning opportunities to gain knowledge and skills to teach ECS. Signs of early broader impacts are emerging: 78% of our ECS enrollment are underrepresented minority (URM) students with nearly half of the cohort consisting of female students. Students reported they were engaged in working collaboratively and sharing responsibilities with others. Furthermore, students who reported being more involved in the ECS course had deeper confidence in their ability to succeed in CS, reported greater overall outcomes, had more confidence in development of 21st century skills, found the course more relevant, were more motivated to persist in CS, and exhibited increased interest in CS careers. We provide a comprehensive description of the partnership’s accomplishments and the evaluation findings on student CS experiences and on teacher self-efficacy in ECS preparation and instruction. Our findings contribute to the BPC literature, specifically for schools with predominantly African-American enrollment in rural communities. 
    more » « less
  2. null (Ed.)
    To meet the rising demand for computer science (CS) courses, K-12 educators need to be prepared to teach introductory concepts and skills in courses such as Computer Science Principles (CSP), which takes a breadth-first approach to CS and includes topics beyond programming such as data, impacts of computing, and networks. Educators are now also being asked to teach more advanced concepts in courses such as the College Board's Advanced Placement Computer Science A (CSA) course, which focuses on advanced programming using Java and includes topics such as objects, inheritance, arrays, and recursion. Traditional CSA curricula have not used content or pedagogy designed to engage a broad range of learners and support their success. Unlike CSP, which is attracting more underrepresented students to computing as it was designed, CSA continues to enroll mostly male, white, and Asian students [College Board 2019, Ericson 2020, Sax 2020]. In order to expand CS education opportunities, it is crucial that students have an engaging experience in CSA similar to CSP. Well-designed differentiated professional development (PD) that focuses on content and pedagogy is necessary to meet individual teacher needs, to successfully build teacher skills and confidence to teach CSA, and to improve engagement with students [Darling-Hammond 2017]. It is critical that as more CS opportunities and courses are developed, teachers remain engaged with their own learning in order to build their content knowledge and refine their teaching practice [CSTA 2020]. CSAwesome, developed and piloted in 2019, offers a College Board endorsed AP CSA curriculum and PD focused on supporting the transition of teachers and students from CSP to CSA. This poster presents preliminary findings aimed at exploring the supports and challenges new-to-CSA high school level educators face when transitioning from teaching an introductory, breadth-first course such as CSP to teaching the more challenging, programming-focused CSA course. Five teachers who completed the online CSAwesome summer 2020 PD completed interviews in spring 2021. The project employed an inductive coding scheme to analyze interview transcriptions and qualitative notes from teachers about their experiences learning, teaching, and implementing CSP and CSA curricula. Initial findings suggest that teachers’ experience in the CSAwesome PD may improve their confidence in teaching CSA, ability to effectively use inclusive teaching practices, ability to empathize with their students, problem-solving skills, and motivation to persist when faced with challenges and difficulties. Teachers noted how the CSAwesome PD provided them with a student perspective and increased feelings of empathy. Participants spoke about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on their own learning, student learning, and teaching style. Teachers enter the PD with many different backgrounds, CS experience levels, and strengths, however, new-to-CSA teachers require further PD on content and pedagogy to transition between CSP and CSA. Initial results suggest that the CSAwesome PD may have an impact on long-term teacher development as new-to-CSA teachers who participated indicated a positive impact on their teaching practices, ideologies, and pedagogies. 
    more » « less
  3. The STEM Excellence through Engagement in Collaboration, Research, and Scholarship (SEECRS) project at Whatcom Community College is a five-year program aiming to support academically talented students with demonstrated financial need in biology, chemistry, geology, computer science, engineering, and physics. This project is funded by an NSF S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) grant awarded in January 2017. Through an inclusive and long-range effort, the college identified a strong need for financial and comprehensive supports for STEM students. This project will offer financial, academic, and professional support to three two-year cohorts of students. The SEECRS project aims to utilize a STEM-specific guided pathways approach to strengthen recruitment, retention, and matriculation of STEM students at the community college level. Scholarship recipients will be supported through participation in the SEECRS Scholars Academy, a multi-pronged approach to student support combining elements of community building, faculty mentorship, targeted advising activities, authentic science practice, and social activities. Students are introduced to disciplines of interest through opportunities to engage in course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in Biology, Chemistry and Engineering courses, funded summer research opportunities, and seminars presented by STEM professionals. Communities of practice will be nurtured through the introduction of cohort building and faculty mentorship. Cohort development starts with a required two-credit course for all scholars that emphasizes STEM identity development, specifically focusing on identifying and coping with the ways non-dominant individuals (racial/ethnic minorities, non-male gender, lower socioeconomic status, first-generation, 2-year community college vs. 4-year institutions) are made to feel as outsiders in STEM. Each SEECRS scholar is paired with a faculty mentor who engages in ongoing mentor training. The project evaluation will determine the efficacy of the project activities in achieving their intended outcomes. Specifically, we will collect data to answer the research question: To what extent can a guided pathways approach provide a coordinated and supported STEM experience at Whatcom Community College that: (1) increases student success, and (2) positively shifts students’ STEM self-identity? The evaluation will employ a quasi-experimental research design, specifically a pretest-posttest design with a matched comparison group. Our first cohort of 14 students was selected over two application rounds (winter and summer 2017). We awarded ten full scholarships and four half-scholarships based on financial need data. Cohort demographics of note compared to institutional percentages are: females (64% vs. 57%), Hispanic (14% vs. 17%), African American (7% vs. 2%), white (79% vs. 66%), first generation college bound (43% vs. 37%). The cohort is comprised of six students interested in engineering, six in biology, and one each in geology and environmental sciences. With increased communication between the project team, our Financial Aid office, Entry and Advising, high school outreach, and the Title III grant-funded Achieve, Inspire, Motivate (AIM) Program, as well as a longer advertising time, we anticipate significantly enhancing our applicant pool for the next cohort. The results and lessons learned from our first year of implementation will be presented. 
    more » « less
  4. The STEM Excellence through Engagement in Collaboration, Research, and Scholarship (SEECRS) project at Whatcom Community College is a five-year program aiming to support academically talented students with demonstrated financial need in biology, chemistry, geology, computer science, engineering, and physics. This project is funded by an NSF S-STEM (Scholarships in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) grant awarded in January 2017. Through an inclusive and long-range effort, the college identified a strong need for financial and comprehensive supports for STEM students. This project will offer financial, academic, and professional support to three two-year cohorts of students. The SEECRS project aims to utilize a STEM-specific guided pathways approach to strengthen recruitment, retention, and matriculation of STEM students at the community college level. Scholarship recipients will be supported through participation in the SEECRS Scholars Academy, a multi-pronged approach to student support combining elements of community building, faculty mentorship, targeted advising activities, authentic science practice, and social activities. Students are introduced to disciplines of interest through opportunities to engage in course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) in Biology, Chemistry and Engineering courses, funded summer research opportunities, and seminars presented by STEM professionals. Communities of practice will be nurtured through the introduction of cohort building and faculty mentorship. Cohort development starts with a required two-credit course for all scholars that emphasizes STEM identity development, specifically focusing on identifying and coping with the ways non-dominant individuals (racial/ethnic minorities, non-male gender, lower socioeconomic status, first-generation, 2-year community college vs. 4-year institutions) are made to feel as outsiders in STEM. Each SEECRS scholar is paired with a faculty mentor who engages in ongoing mentor training. The project evaluation will determine the efficacy of the project activities in achieving their intended outcomes. Specifically, we will collect data to answer the research question: To what extent can a guided pathways approach provide a coordinated and supported STEM experience at Whatcom Community College that: (1) increases student success, and (2) positively shifts students’ STEM self-identity? The evaluation will employ a quasi-experimental research design, specifically a pretest-posttest design with a matched comparison group. Our first cohort of 14 students was selected over two application rounds (winter and summer 2017). We awarded ten full scholarships and four half-scholarships based on financial need data. Cohort demographics of note compared to institutional percentages are: females (64% vs. 57%), Hispanic (14% vs. 17%), African American (7% vs. 2%), white (79% vs. 66%), first generation college bound (43% vs. 37%). The cohort is comprised of six students interested in engineering, six in biology, and one each in geology and environmental sciences. With increased communication between the project team, our Financial Aid office, Entry and Advising, high school outreach, and the Title III grant-funded Achieve, Inspire, Motivate (AIM) Program, as well as a longer advertising time, we anticipate significantly enhancing our applicant pool for the next cohort. The results and lessons learned from our first year of implementation will be presented. 
    more » « less
  5. Despite limited success in broadening participation in engineering with rural and Appalachian youth, there remain challenges such as misunderstandings around engineering careers, misalignments with youth’s sociocultural background, and other environmental barriers. In addition, middle school science teachers may be unfamiliar with engineering or how to integrate engineering concepts into science lessons. Furthermore, teachers interested in incorporating engineering into their curriculum may not have the time or resources to do so. The result may be single interventions such as a professional development workshop for teachers or a career day for students. However, those are unlikely to cause major change or sustained interest development. To address these challenges, we have undertaken our NSF ITEST project titled, Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Schools (VT PEERS). Through this project, we sought to improve youth awareness of and preparation for engineering related careers and educational pathways. Utilizing regular engagement in engineering-aligned classroom activities and culturally relevant programming, we sought to spark an interest with some students. In addition, our project involves a partnership with teachers, school districts, and local industry to provide a holistic and, hopefully, sustainable influence. By engaging over time we aspired to promote sustainability beyond this NSF project via increased teacher confidence with engineering related activities, continued integration within their science curriculum, and continued relationships with local industry. From the 2017-2020 school years the project has been in seven schools across three rural counties. Each year a grade level was added; that is, the teachers and students from the first year remained for all three years. Year 1 included eight 6th grade science teachers, year 2 added eight 7th grade science teachers, and year 3 added three 8th grade science teachers and a career and technology teacher. The number of students increased from over 500 students in year 1 to over 2500 in year 3. Our three industry partners have remained active throughout the project. During the third and final year in the classrooms, we focused on the sustainable aspects of the project. In particular, on how the intervention support has evolved each year based on data, support requests from the school divisions, and in scaffolding “ownership” of the engineering activities. Qualitative data were used to support our understanding of teachers’ confidence to incorporate engineering into their lessons plans and how their confidence changed over time. Noteworthy, our student data analysis resulted in an instrument change for the third year; however due to COVID, pre and post data was limited to schools who taught on a semester basis. Throughout the project we have utilized the ITEST STEM Workforce Education Helix model to support a pragmatic approach of our research informing our practice to enable an “iterative relationship between STEM content development and STEM career development activities… within the cultural context of schools, with teachers supported by professional development, and through programs supported by effective partnerships.” For example, over the course of the project, scaffolding from the University leading interventions to teachers leading interventions occurred. 
    more » « less