The CRA-W/CDC BPC Alliance Data Buddies Project

The newest development in our NSF Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC) project is the start of a large-scale national data collection and analysis effort. This new project entitled “Measuring Outcomes for Computing Students and Faculty” is in response to NSF’s increasing interest in measures of performance of BPC programs in addition to addressing a long-standing problem that CRA-W has faced in evaluation: we need a comparison group to determine the efficacy of our programs. In February 2011, our BPC Alliance was awarded $750k to fund this endeavor for the first year.

The problem with collecting data for a comparison group is finding people to participate. Our alums are great about responding to surveys, but people who have not been through any of our programs and may never have heard of us have no reason to pay attention to our requests. Therefore, we plan to work through a sample of departments, both PhD-granting and non-PhD. Participating departments, which we call “data buddy” departments, will be randomly selected from among schools of comparable size and type that had at least one student or faculty member participate in a CRA-W/CDC program during 2008-2010.

Approximately 40 data buddy departments will be assisting the project team in surveying their completing undergraduates and graduate students in April, and faculty and continuing students next fall; in return, they will get information on their student responses compared to the overall group. We are in the process of selecting the data buddies and setting up an advisory board which will advise the evaluation team on how to stay actively engaged with our data buddy departments, to meet their needs, to reduce duplicate gathering of information, and to maximize the value of our results for multiple uses in broadening participation.

The survey will be directed by Joanne Cohoon (University of Virginia), a CRA-W Board member who specializes in evaluation, and Betsy Bizot, a CRA staff member with responsibility for surveys and evaluation, assisted by Kenneth Hines (CRA staff).

This effort is supported by other members of the NSF BPC community and will benefit all computing departments in their efforts to understand the mechanisms of successful programs to broaden participation.