Jane Stout, Director of CRA’s Center for Evaluating the Research Pipeline (CERP), is the PI on a three-year grant recently awarded to CRA by NSF for the amount of $783,975. The project, entitled Promoting a Diverse Computing Workforce: Using National Survey Data to Understand Persistence Across Undergraduate Student Groups, will use data collected from CERP’s Data Buddies program, to understand predictors of student retention in computing, with specific focus on the experiences of underrepresented groups. Data collection for the project will begin during the fall of 2014, and track students’ successes and persistence through 2017.
CERP’s Data Buddies methodology involves semiannual collection of large-scale, cross sectional survey data that measure the experiences of students pursuing computing career tracks from a variety of institution types (PhD granting; terminal Masters granting; liberal arts colleges; women’s colleges; HBCUs; MSIs), and from a wide array of demographic groups (gender; race/ethnicity; first-generation college students; students with disabilities). A particularly striking characteristic of Data Buddies data is that the datasets are large enough to hone in on the experiences of many different student populations – an endeavor that is challenging if not impossible at single-site social science research centers due to underrepresented groups’ inherently small size. This project will focus on broadening participation in computing by measuring theoretically validated predictors of achievement and persistence, then assessing whether those predictors are equally important across student groups and across time.
The project’s research team is well suited to conduct this type of research. Stout has a PhD focusing on social psychological and education theory, extensive experience leading large-scale survey research in education settings and expertise in a host of quantitative analytic methods. CERP’s two research associates with advanced degrees in social science fields, Ama Nyame-Mensah and Heather Wright, will also work on the project. The project’s advisory board is composed of leaders in the computing community who head diversity initiatives for a broad range of student demographics and will play a central role in project oversight: Jamika Burge, Coalition to Diversify Computing (CDC); Richard Ladner, The Alliance for Access to Computing Careers (AccessComputing); Marigold Linton, Society for Advancement of Hispanics/Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS); Rebecca Wright, Committee on the Status of Women in Computing Research (CRA-W). CERP’s infrastructure, the basis for data collection, is well established, as evident by its 4-year history of successfully collecting large datasets from students in computing programs.
The project will generate a clear set of strategies and best practices to promote persistence among a broad range of students at the postsecondary level, which will be offered to computing departments across the country. Stout will present findings to computing departments in CRA’s and CERP’s professional networks, and at high-impact professional conferences concerned with education in the computing community, such as the CRA Conference at Snowbird and SIGSCE.