Students sense of belonging has been shown to be associated with many attributes such as motivation and persistence. But what makes people feel like they belong in Computer Science? Join us on Monday 6th December at 2pm GMT to discuss belonging via a paper by Catherine Mooney and Brett Becker.  This won a best paper award at SIGCSE 2021.
[There will be no SIGCSE journal club in November, however, we’ll be back in December as usual.]
Sense of belonging, or belongingness, describes how accepted one feels in their academic community and is an important factor in creating inclusive learning environments. Belongingness is influenced by many factors including: students’ backgrounds and experiences; other people; environments (physical and virtual); academic discipline; external factors such as local, regional, and global issues; and time. 2020 has been dominated by several major events including the COVID-19 pandemic which dramatically impacted education. The Black Lives Matter movement has further raised global awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion not just in society, but in educational contexts. Climate change concerns, and politically charged news are also increasingly affecting our students.
We have been monitoring our undergraduate computing students’ sense of belonging for over three years, providing us with a unique opportunity to gauge recent changes during the pandemic. Our results surprised us. We found statistically significant reductions in the belongingness of students identifying as men as well as those not identifying as being part of a minority. However, investigating intersectionality of self-identified gender and minority status revealed more complicated and nuanced trends, illustrating important shifts in the belongingness of our students that we are only beginning to understand.
Catherine Mooney and Brett Becker (2021) Investigating the Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Computing Students’ Sense of Belonging. SIGCSE ’21: Proceedings of the 52nd ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, March 2021 Pages 612–618 DOI:10.1145/3408877.3432407
Following on from our discussion of ungrading, this month we’ll be discussing pass/fail rates in introductory programming courses.  Here is the abstract:
Vast numbers of publications in computing education begin with the premise that programming is hard to learn and hard to teach. Many papers note that failure rates in computing courses, and particularly in introductory programming courses, are higher than their institutions would like. Two distinct research projects in 2007 and 2014 concluded that average success rates in introductory programming courses world-wide were in the region of 67%, and a recent replication of the first project found an average pass rate of about 72%. The authors of those studies concluded that there was little evidence that failure rates in introductory programming were concerningly high.
However, there is no absolute scale by which pass or failure rates are measured, so whether a failure rate is concerningly high will depend on what that rate is compared against. As computing is typically considered to be a STEM subject, this paper considers how pass rates for introductory programming courses compare with those for other introductory STEM courses. A comparison of this sort could prove useful in demonstrating whether the pass rates are comparatively low, and if so, how widespread such findings are.
This paper is the report of an ITiCSE working group that gathered information on pass rates from several institutions to determine whether prior results can be confirmed, and conducted a detailed comparison of pass rates in introductory programming courses with pass rates in introductory courses in other STEM disciplines.
The group found that pass rates in introductory programming courses appear to average about 75%; that there is some evidence that they sit at the low end of the range of pass rates in introductory STEM courses; and that pass rates both in introductory programming and in other introductory STEM courses appear to have remained fairly stable over the past five years. All of these findings must be regarded with some caution, for reasons that are explained in the paper. Despite the lack of evidence that pass rates are substantially lower than in other STEM courses, there is still scope to improve the pass rates of introductory programming courses, and future research should continue to investigate ways of improving student learning in introductory programming courses.