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  1. Many institutions use undergraduate teaching assistants (tutors) in their computing courses to help provide more resources to students. Because of the role tutors play in students' learning experiences, recent work in computing education has begun to explore student-tutor interactions through the tutor's perspective and through direct observation of the interactions. The results suggest that these interactions are cognitively challenging for tutors and may not be as beneficial for students' learning as one might hope. Given that many of these interactions may be unproductive, this work seeks to understand how student expectations of these sessions might be impacting the interactions' effectiveness. We interviewed 15 students in a CS2 course to learn about the expectations and desires that students have when they attend tutoring sessions. Our findings indicate that there is variation in what students consider a desired result from the interaction, that assignment deadlines affect students' expectations and desires for interactions, and that students do not always want what they believe is beneficial for their learning. We discuss implications for instructors and potential guidance for students and tutors to make tutoring sessions more effective.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 2, 2024
  2. Recent research in computing has shown that student performance on prerequisite course content varies widely, even when students continue to progress further through the computing curriculum. Our work investigates instructors' perspectives on the purpose of prerequisite courses and whether that purpose is being fulfilled. In order to identify the range of instructor views, we interviewed twenty-one computer science instructors, at two institutions, that teach a variety of courses in their respective departments. We conducted a phenomenographic analysis on the interview transcripts, which revealed a wide variety of views on prerequisite courses. The responses shed light on various issues with prerequisite course knowledge, as well as issues around responsibility and conflicting pressures on instructors. These issues arise at the department level, as well as with individual course offerings.
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 2, 2024
  3. As enrollments in computing courses have surged, the ratio of students to faculty has risen at many institutions. Along with many other large undergraduate programs, our institution has adapted to this challenge by hiring increasing numbers of undergraduate tutors to help students. In early computing courses, their role at our institution is primarily to help students with their programming assignments. Despite our institution offering a training course for tutors, we are concerned about the quality and nature of these student-tutor interactions. As instruction moved online due to COVID-19, this provided the unique opportunity to record all student-tutor interactions (among consenting participants) for research. In order to gain an understanding of the behaviors common in these interactions, we conducted an initial qualitative analysis using open coding followed by a quantitative analysis on those codes. Overall, we found that students are not generally receiving the instruction we might hope or expect from these sessions. Notably, tutors often simply give students the solution to the problem in their code without teaching them about the process of finding and correcting their own errors. These findings highlight the importance of tutoring sessions for learning in introductory courses and motivate remediation to make these sessions moremore »productive.« less
  4. Previous work in computing has shown that Black, Latinx, Native American and Pacific islander (BLNPI), women, first-generation, and transfer students tend to have worse outcomes during their time in university compared to their majority counterparts. Previous work has also found that students' incoming prerequisite course proficiency is positively correlated with their outcomes in a course. In this work, we investigate the role that prerequisite course proficiency has on outcomes between these groups of students. Specifically, we examine incoming prerequisite course proficiency in an Advanced Data Structures course. When comparing incoming prerequisite course proficiency between demographic pairs, we only see small differences for gender or by first-generation status. There is a sizeable difference by BLNPI status, although this difference is not statistically significant, possibly due to the small number of BLNPI students. In addition, we find that transfer students have sizeable and statistically significantly lower prerequisite course proficiency when compared to non-transfer students. For BLNPI and transfer students, we find that they also have lower grades in the prerequisite courses, which may partially explain their lower prerequisite course proficiency. These findings suggest that institutions need to find ways to better serve BLNPI and transfer students.