Diversity, Inclusion, Respect, and Student Support (Part 1)

I’ve just returned from SIGCSE2016, and my head is overflowing with ideas! Some highlights for me:

  • On Wednesday night I attended a workshop titled High Yield in the Short Term: Planning Strategically to Get Women into Your Major (Barker & Thompson, 2016). This workshop was useful to me in my role as a program chair, and it really got me to thinking about how we can encourage more women to major in Computer Science, Web Development, or Networking Systems and Technologies. The workshop allowed me to strategize and bounce ideas off of other faculty members. It also alerted me to the existence of organizations such as ACM-W and NCWIT. I now have a few ideas which I hope to implement campus-wide. Ultimately, this would be an ILSP which affects my entire department.
  • The Thursday keynote address was titled Cognitive Load Theory and Computer Science Education (Sweller, 2016). The general gist of his presentation was that computer science skills are biologically secondary, domain-specific skills, and as such, they require explicit instruction. Sweller stated: “[M]ost topics taught in educational and training institutions are ones that we have not specifically evolved to learn. Such topics require biologically secondary knowledge rather than the biologically primary knowledge that we have evolved to acquire”(2016).
  • Also on Thursday, I was asked to judge graduate students in a Student Research Competition. One really excellent presentation was presented by Maíra Marques of the Universidad de Chile. Here study was on the use of graduate monitors in group service-learning projects (Marques, 2016), and her data have convinced me that this is something I should consider in my capstone projects. Of course, we don’t have grad students at Wright College; however, this could be an appropriate role for an embedded tutor. (Incidentally, Marques won first place in the Student Research Competition.)
  • Saturday’s keynote speech was titled Lean In to the Evidence: Breaking the “Glass Slipper” of Technical Professions by Karen Lee Ashcraft (2016). Ashcraft (2016) explored the implicit gender biases that exist in various occupations, including computer science. This has led me to reexamine the wording of our TALEO ads for adjunct CIS faculty to make sure that there is no inadvertent bias.

In addition to the various workshops, competitions, and speakers, I was able to interact with many CS faculty members from all over the world. One evening I went out with faculty members from UIC and Lane Tech High School. We got to talking about race and computing classes, and I mentioned the book Stuck in the Shallow End (Margolis, 2008). Everyone at the table started laughing, and I was afraid I had said something wrong. It turned out that they laughed because the person sitting across the table from me was Joanna Goode, one of the contributors listed on the cover of the book. I really appreciated having the opportunity to meet with her face to face, and now I have a funny story to bring back to my department.


Asher, K.L. (2016). Lean In to the Evidence: Breaking the “Glass Slipper” of Technical Professions [PDF]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2839509.28460113

Barker, L.J. & Thompson, L.D., A.A.. (2016). High Yield in the Short Term: Planning Strategically to Get Women
into your Major [PDF]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2839509.2844691

Margolis, J. (2008). Stuck in the shallow end: Education, race, and computing. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Marques, M. (2016). Monitoring – An Intervention to Improve Team Results in Software Engineering Education [PDF]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2839509.2851054

Sweller, J. (2016). Cognitive Load Theory and Computer Science Education [PDF]. http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2839509.

Action Research

This week’s reading from Burton & Bartlet (2005) focused on quantitative and qualitative research methods. I found it to be a helpful review of my last three years of grad school. In particular, the authors discussed the importance of establishing reliable and valid methods of study and the use of triangulation.

Study data is said to bee reliable if the results can be replicated by another researcher (Burton & Bartlet, 2005). Although these authors were focusing on the end results of the study, it is just as important to ensure that the testing instrument used in the study is also reliable. One method for determining reliability of the questions is called the test-retest method (Litwin, 1995). Using this method, respondents are asked the same question at two different points in time. If the answers are fairly consistent, the questions are said to be reliable.

Burton & Bartlet (2005) also discussed the importance of validity in the research data: does the study actually measure what its authors claimed? Again, the researcher is responsible for ensuring that his or her instrumentation is valid. To determine content validity, interview questions should be shown to reviewers who have some knowledge of the subject matter (Litwin, 1995). Additionally, cognitive interviews may be conducted with a sample group. Verbal probing techniques can be used to ensure that questions are free of ambiguity and that the answers given will actually provide the type of information required for this study (Willis, 1999).

Finally, the authors explained triangulation of study data (Burton & Bartlet, 2005). This is achieved by using multiple methods of data collection to further support the reliability and validity of the study (Berg, 2001). Ultimately, reliability, validity, and triangulation all support a study’s credibility. A study is said to be credible if the results of the study are believable from the point of view of the participants in the research (Lincoln & Guba, 1985).

Ideas for ILSP

Based on this week’s readings, it seems that we will be asked to conduct a study of some sort as part of our ILSPs. Some possible ideas:

  • Is the MyITLab software effective in supporting learning in CIS 120?
  • How does the efficacy of my “flipped” classroom compare to that of a more traditional lecture-based approach in CIS 181?

Both of these could easily be set up as quantitative studies using pretest and post-test data from the classes. The CIS 120 study would encompass the entire department, whereas the CIS 181 study would affect just my classes. Food for thought.


Berg, B. L. (2001). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (4th ed.). Needham Heights, MA: Pearson.

Burton, D., & Bartlett, S. (2005). Practitioner research for teachers. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Lincoln, Y. S., Guba, E. G., & Guba, E. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry: The paradigm revolution. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Litwin, M. S. (1995). How to measure survey reliability and validity. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Willis, G. B. (1999). Cognitive interviewing: A “how to” guide. Retrieved from http://fog.its.uiowa.edu/~c07b209/interview.pdf

Teaching and Learning

In Chapter 18, “Inquiry-Guided Learning,” Nilson (2010) wrote of the importance of students’ developing questions themselves in the course of their learning. This method of inquiry-guided learning is especially important for students learning scripting or programming languages. It’s very easy for students to copy what I do, character for character; but I find that the mere act of parroting my code does nothing to help them understand what the code means at a deeper level. Therefore, I’ve begin including more inquiry-guided learning in my scripting classes. I often break students up into pairs and give them a coding problem to solve together. As Nilson (2010) stated, the goal of this sort of exercise is so that “they can start thinking more like experts” (p. 176). When my students go into the working world, they will be expected to solve problems such as these, not just copying someone else’s code.


Nilson (2010) mentioned the importance of scaffolding in inquiry-guided learning. Scaffolding refers to the process in which a learner receives assistance from someone who has more experience in the subject matter (Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). Thus, the instructor’s role is to provide support for the learners. During inquiry-guided learning exercises, I will often ask questions to get the students thinking of different approaches to a scripting problem. In this way, I’m providing support and guidance while allowing students to come to their own conclusions.

Project-Based Learning

Project-based learning is a variation of inquiry-guided learning. Project-based learning results in “greater improvement in students’ conceptual understanding, problem-solving skills, and attitudes” (Nilson, 2010, p. 179) than more traditional test-based learning. Project-based learning is appropriate for web development classes since it more accurately reflects what industry professionals do in the field. All of my web development courses include a final project. For CIS 181 Web Development I, students must create a four-page web site for a travel destination. This gives students the opportunity to synthesize or create something new using everything they’ve learned throughout the semester. Creating original work is the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy (2016).



Bloom’s Taxonomy. (2016). Retrieved February 18, 2016, from https://cft.vanderbilt.edu/guides-sub-pages/blooms-taxonomy/

Nilson, L. B. (2010). Teaching at its best: A research-based resource for college instructors. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Wood, D. J., Bruner, J. S., & Ross, G. (1976). The role of tutoring in problem solving. Journal of Child Psychiatry and Psychology, 17(2), 89-100. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.1976.tb00381.x


Brookfield’s Four Lenses

During Semester 2 of the tenure process, we are expected to keep a self-reflected blog. This week, as part of my tenure process, I will take a closer look at my teaching experiences through Brookfield’s (1995) four lenses: self, students, peers, and scholarship.

Lens One: Self

My own teaching style is extremely interactive. That’s because my classes are coding classes, and the best way to learn to code is by actually doing it. Often I will break students up into pairs or small groups and have them discuss that week’s reading assignment together, summarizing the important points. Then I ask the groups to present the summaries to the rest of the class. We use these summaries as a springboard for discussion. These discussions are student-led; my role is to make sure that they haven’t missed any important points and to keep the discussion on-topic.

Lens Two: Students

Unfortunately, I have not yet received my Semester 1 Portfolio Rubric. However, I now have my student evaluations from Semester 1, and the results of those evaluations seem to indicate that I am on the right track with my teaching. Students wrote that I was knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and approachable, even if I do have “a weird obsession with rubber duckies.” (Yes, I collect rubber duckies.)

Lens Three: Peers

During Semester 1, three different observers sat in during my classes. All three observers commented on my use of varied learning activities, including short video/multimedia presentations, a quiz show format review of course material, and a group scavenger hunt activity. All three of these activities integrated technology in some way; for example, students used their mobile phones to photograph items in the scavenger hunt, and then we viewed them as a class on the projector screen.

Lens Four: Scholarship

My teaching is shaped in part by Communal Constructivist Theory. According to this theory, peer-to-peer instruction is an especially effective means of learning information and communications technology (ICT) skills (Leask & Younie, 2001). When I split students up into groups and ask them to discuss and summarize the reading assignment, I am utilizing the Communal Constructivist Theory. Students are learning from each other in a peer-to-peer learning environment.


Brookfield, S. (1995). Becoming a critically reflective teacher. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Leask, M., & Younie, S. (2001). Communal constructivist theory: Information and communications technology pedagogy and internationalisation of the curriculum. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Education, 10(1-2), 117-134. doi:10.1080/14759390100200106