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Near-Peer Mentoring and Early Exposure to Computer Science – Quantitative and Qualitative Results

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Conference

2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Tagged Topics

Diversity and NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

6

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/37523

Download Count

95

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Paper Authors

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David Hartenstine Western Washington University

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David Hartenstine is a Professor of Mathematics at Western Washington University. He earned his PhD at Temple University.

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Perry Fizzano Western Washington University

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Perry Fizzano earned his BS degree in Computer Science from Widener University and his MS and PhD in Computer Science from Dartmouth College. He had stints in academia and industry prior to joining WWU in 2005. He served as department chair from 2012 - 2019. His research interests are in optimization, bioinformatics, information retrieval and computer science education.

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Joseph Arthur Brobst Old Dominion University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0003-0605-757X

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Joe Brobst holds a BS in Biological Sciences, MA in Curriculum & Instruction, and Ed.D. in Educational Leadership, all from the University of Delaware. Formerly a high school biology teacher, he is now an educational research and program evaluation specialist with experience working on a wide range of projects sponsored by organizations including the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Office of Naval Research, U.S. Department of Education, and Corporation for National and Community Service. His areas of interest and expertise include broadening participation in STEM higher education, K-12 STEM teacher professional development, and preservice teacher preparation in STEM.

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Joanna K. Garner Old Dominion University

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Dr. Garner is Executive Director of The Center for Educational Partnerships at Old Dominion University, VA.

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Abstract

The CS/M Scholars Program, funded by a Track 2 NSF S-STEM grant, supports students majoring in computer science or mathematics at a public comprehensive university. The title of the project is "Preparing Students for Careers in Computer Science and Math." The program is now in its third year. Eligible students receive scholarships averaging $4500 per year for up to four years. In addition to scholarships, CS/M Scholars are supported with curricular and co-curricular activities. These include first-quarter seminars in math and computer science that help to build community within the program in addition to introducing the variety of opportunities in the fields and strengthening students' communication and problem-solving skills. Regular program events, six per year, focus on building awareness of possible career paths and various aspects of professional development.

Near peer mentoring is one of the hallmarks of the program. First- and second-year CS/M Scholars are mentored by third- and fourth-year Scholars. In turn, the third- and fourth-year Scholars are mentored by Early Career Professional Mentors, who are recent alumni from the same institution with computer science or math degrees and now working in the fields or pursuing graduate study. Mentors and mentees have monthly conversations, on a general topic provided by the investigators, throughout the school year. The response from students and recent alumni has been enthusiastic, with both groups seeing great benefit in this opportunity.

Research associated with the program focuses on two main questions: 1) How and to what extent do the program features contribute to the development of students’ self-efficacy, identity, and sense of belonging?, and 2) How does early exposure to computer science through coursework and career awareness affect the experience of CS/M Scholars?. These questions are investigated through focus group interviews, surveys of the Scholars and a comparison group, and analysis of summaries written by mentees of their conversations with their mentors.

This poster will provide an overview of the program, including program activities and student demographics, but will focus on the results of the research. Pre- and post-surveys administered across multiple cohorts during Scholars’ and comparison students’ first year reveal significant increases in several variables of interest. Specifically, Scholars show gains during their first year in computer science self-efficacy and in response to the statement “I have a role model in computer science”. Scholars’ ratings of the latter item are also significantly higher than those of comparison students at the end of their first year. Qualitative data gathered from focus groups and a purposefully diverse sample of the summaries of mentee-mentor conversations suggest that Scholars are greatly benefitting from the mentoring provided by the program, particularly in terms of career / professional identity development. A potential broader impact of this project is the scaling and adapting of the near-peer mentoring to students who are not supported by the grant.

Hartenstine, D., & Fizzano, P., & Brobst, J. A., & Garner, J. K. (2021, July), Near-Peer Mentoring and Early Exposure to Computer Science – Quantitative and Qualitative Results Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. https://peer.asee.org/37523

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