This document is for authors and reviewers to use to determine which Engagement Practices are appropriate for submitted materials.

PRINCIPLE: Make it Matter

All students are more motivated, perform better, and more likely to persist when they can see how a lesson connects to their life, interests, goals, and values. Students who don’t fit the stereotype of someone pursuing computing, however, may need more explicit connections for them to envision themselves in the field. Help all students connect to computing by connecting computing to their lives!

Engagement Practice: Use Meaningful and Relevant Content

“Make it matter” for your students by experimenting with new and interesting topics for assignments and projects, and by using use varied examples in your lectures and other materials. Students are more likely to persist in the face of a challenge when what they are learning is relevant to their life experiences and goals. Use examples that have broad appeal, place assignments in contexts that interest students, and explain to students how a particular idea is used in different contexts.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Bringing students back to the real world application of what they are learning.
  • Using interesting real world data or examples
  • The material is something that would likely interest diverse types of students.

What doesn’t count:

  • Something interesting to only a niche group of people, especially if that niche is stereotypically associated with traditionally masculine, geek, or white culture.

Engagement Practice: Make Interdisciplinary Connections to CS

“Make it matter” for students by showing the relevance of computer science to a variety of fields, such as medicine, the humanities, and media. When you make explicit how computer science is used in other fields, you can engage individuals who may have not (yet) considered computer science as a major or career.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Materials that introduce interesting problems from other fields, including the questions that are asked in that field and the methods used to pursue answers.
  • Materials that explicitly introduce students to cross-disciplinary computing fields.

What doesn’t count:

  • Something that is simply interesting without making explicit connections to another field of study and the kinds of questions that field asks would NOT be marked with this EP. In this case, the EP would be Relevant & Meaningful, but not Interdisciplinary Connections.
  • When the connection is clearly to another field of computing, e.g., computer graphics, rather than to a field typically seen as outside of computing, e.g., genetics it is NOT marked with this EP.

Engagement Practice: Address Misconceptions About the Field of CS

“Make it matter” by addressing misconceptions students have about the field that may prevent them from taking computing courses or pursuing a career in computer science. Many students have overly narrow ideas of what computing is about, what the work is like, and the kinds of people who typically do it. Address these misconceptions by illustrating the diversity and breadth of work a computer scientist can do--and who can do it--and emphasizing that success comes from practice. Discuss the advantages and rewards of computing careers.

Some, but not all of, the common misconceptions students hold:

  • Being in a computing job always means working alone
  • Being in a computing job means odd and long hours
  • You have to have been programming from a young age to be successful
  • Real programmers are born not made (fixed mindset)
  • Computer science is just about coding
  • You have to be brilliant, especially at math, to be successful in computing
  • Only guys are good at coding
  • Only nerds or geeks do computer science

Often you can effectively address the misconceptions simply by showing things counter to it without going into detail about the stereotype.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Materials that explicitly show students the range of computing fields. Thus, an assignment that teaches CS1/CS2 content via computer graphics would be appropriate, if some effort was made to show students that this is not merely an exercise but that it is part of a subfield of computing.
  • Materials that communicate to students about the day-to-day kinds of work computer scientists do, especially if it shows the diversity of work.
  • Materials that show the diversity of people who are computer scientists.
  • Materials that challenge the association of computing with geek culture and cultural references that are stereotypically associated with men.

What doesn’t count:

  • Simply having an assignment or project that makes use of, say, data from another field is not sufficient to be tagged with Addressing Misconceptions. It must have some element that helps students reflect on what this means for the field of computing and the kinds of work computer scientists do.

Engagement Practice: Incorporate Student Choice

Learning is enhanced when course materials are relevant to students’ interests and goals, and nothing works better than letting students choose what they want to pursue. When possible, allow students to choose from among a set of problems or assignments, or to choose the topic area to be addressed in a particular assignment.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Extra credit can count as incorporating student choice IF it allows students to truly bring in their own interests. Simply having them do additional tasks does not constitute student choice.
  • Allowing students to select their own data set and to pose their own questions about that data.
  • Allowing students within the parameters of the assignment to create unique output or functionality (e.g., drawings, game mechanics).

What doesn’t count:

  • Extra credit that does not allow students real choice in data, approach, output or functionality.
  • Extra credit that simply gives students new challenges without choice (see above) does not count.

PRINCIPLE: Build Student Confidence and Professional Identity

Computing has come to be associated with some fairly strong stereotypes about who is a "computer scientist," or more narrowly, a "programmer." Anyone who doesn’t fit the stereotype may have difficulty seeing themselves in the field, and be less likely to have people supporting them in their pursuit of computing. Faculty can help by building student confidence, modeling inclusive behavior, and teaching students norms of professional behavior.

Engagement Practice: Give Effective Encouragement

Encouragement increases self-efficacy: the belief in one’s ability to successfully perform a task. Because we are more likely to engage in tasks we believe we can perform successfully, encouragement may be especially useful for attracting women to male-stereotyped fields and helping them to persist in the face of difficult challenges. Faculty can help by explicitly noting students’ good work, by actively encouraging their computing pursuits, and by encouraging a “growth mindset.”

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Explicit encouragement within the student-facing material that helps student understand that persistence and effort will lead to success. For example, emphasize that mistakes are part of the process, that we all make mistakes, and provide help to overcome them.
  • In the Recommendation section or in an Implementation paper explain how to incorporate effective encouragement as one is teaching the materials (e.g., verbally).

What doesn’t count:

  • Effective encouragement is not simply saying that the work itself is difficult. It needs to provide students with understanding that it is possible to succeed with hard work and persistence (that is, model a growth mindset). For more information on growth mindsets, see NCWIT resource on Effective Encouragement.
  • Simply using “positive, casual language” is not sufficient if it doesn’t also indicate elements of a “growth mindset.”  Definition of growth mindset:

“In a growth mindset, people believe that their most basic abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work—brains and talent are just the starting point. This view creates a love of learning and a resilience that is essential for great accomplishment. Virtually all great people have had these qualities.”

Engagement Practice: Offer Student-Centered Assessment

Student-centered Assessment helps students examine their own learning. Effective feedback on performance--and assistance on how to reflect on it--encourages persistence. So give students feedback they can productively use, i.e., timely, contextualized, and actionable.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Providing low stakes opportunities for students to check their understanding of concepts, e.g., clicker quizzes, and then working through the answers with students.
  • Providing checkpoints, especially in longer projects, that help students assess how they are doing
  • Discussing in an Implementation paper or Recommendations how to help students reflect on their work and how to improve it.

What doesn’t count:

  • A stand-alone quiz or exam (midterm/ final) with no context. This Engagement Practice isn’t about assessments but about helping students assess their own learning.

Engagement Practice: Mitigate Stereotype Threat

Stereotype threat occurs when we fear that our actions will confirm negative stereotypes about our “group.” When activated, stereotype threat harms performance and motivation by reducing feelings of competence, belonging, and trust. Note that stereotype threat can affect the performance of anyone in a situation where a stereotype-based expectation of poor performance is evoked. It can be mitigated by reframing tasks to remove associations with stereotypes, by giving effective encouragement, and with self-affirmations.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • The best way to mitigate stereotype threat is to avoid stereotypes in the first place! That’s why all materials are reviewed for stereotypes as part of the review process.
  • To be tagged with this EP, the resource must explicitly discuss how the instructor actively mitigates stereotype threat.

Engagement Practice: Provide Opportunities for Interaction with Faculty

Interacting with faculty and teaching assistants, both in and outside of the classroom, is a powerful way to give students encouragement, to impart tacit professional knowledge, and to help students begin to see themselves as computer scientists. These interactions can take place in class or in lab, during office hours, or in other settings, and are important for sustaining student interest in computing.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Encouragement (and ideally, incentives) within the student-facing materials for students to visit you and your TAs in office hours and other opportunities to ask questions and interact. E.g., building in several required check-ins with TAs or faculty throughout a long project or doing in-person grading that provide students with structured opportunities to interact with instructors in ways that may go beyond just talking about assignments, e.g., about careers, research, hobbies, real world applications. This can also be related to Student Centered Assessment if the content of the interaction is specifically about helping the student understand their own learning.
  • Faculty-facing guidance (in the Recommendations section or in an uploaded Implementation Paper) on how you make office hours accessible to students and encourage them to interact with you and your TAs.
  • Explaining in faculty-facing material (e.g., an implementation paper) how you, as an instructor, have a systematic way to interact with individual students or small groups of student within a lab or other setting.

What doesn’t count:

  • Simply using “we”  or other inclusive/casual language in a material
  • A “one touch” thing that is not repeated or regularly encouraged ( e.g., introducing office hours and location on the first day of class and then never mentioning it again)

PRINCIPLE: Grow an Inclusive Student Community

Students are more likely to persist when they have a community related to their academic pursuits. Faculty can help establish, support, and grow an inclusive student community in their programs by following some relatively simple practices in the classroom and by providing leadership and support outside of regular courses.

Engagement Practice: Avoid Stereotypes

Avoiding stereotypes helps foster an inclusive student community. Stereotypes are fixed, overgeneralized beliefs about a group of people. They can make individuals feel unwelcome and unfairly judged. By avoiding stereotypes in both verbal and written communication faculty can help all students feel welcome and seen as individuals. Faculty should also discourage students from using stereotypes in their communication, including in their assignments and during class discussions.

All materials in the collection have been reviewed for stereotypes but some materials offer particularly good examples of how to avoid them. In these cases, the material is tagged with this Engagement Practice.

Engagement Practice: Use Well-Structured Collaborative Learning

Students work together on a formal learning activity in collaborative learning. This is distinct from projects where students “divide and conquer” a task. In contrast, with collaborative learning students are engaged in intellectual talk with each other. Collaborative learning builds critical thinking and problem solving, and it can help grow a more inclusive student community by helping students develop communication and teamwork skills, and an appreciation of diversity. Some examples of collaborative learning include Pair Programming, Peer Instruction, and Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL).

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Using Pair Programming, if implemented correctly and well-structured. Should abide by the basic guidelines in the NCWIT Pair Programming resource.
  • Using POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). Requires students to work in teams with rotating roles with a explore-invent-apply work cycle.
  • Using Peer instruction. Should center around some form of conceptual questions (e.g., “ConcepTests”) posed by the instructor and responded to by students. Students first try to answer the question individually. They then discuss the question in small groups and attempt to reach consensus on the answer.
  • Use think-pair-share cycles. Appropriate if the questions are focused on learning course material (and not merely social).

**All of these may require that additional resources be added to the material submission (e.g., a handout/video/slide deck on how to do pair programming).

What doesn’t count:

  • Work in pairs without more information as to how this happens. This would be student-student interaction not collaborative learning which is more formal and structured.
  • A project where students are able to employ divide-and-conquer techniques. Research suggests that these kinds of projects can further widen an experience gap.

Engagement Practice: Encourage Student Interaction

To help build inclusive student community, faculty can provide opportunities for students to interact with each other both in and outside of class. This is different from collaborative learning in that the primary goal is helping students make social connections rather than directly impact learning. This can encourage the growth of peer-support networks and a student-centered learning community. Students who have a community related to their academic pursuits are more likely to persist.

Some criteria that would make this EP applicable:

  • Well thought-out ice-breakers that work to help students find commonalities rather than differences
  • Encouraging and supporting students to form student groups (e.g., ACM/ACM-W, study groups, interest groups)
  • Other informal ways of encouraging students to interact that don’t rise to the level of formality for Collaborative Learning (e.g., putting students in rotating pairs to work on questions in class).
  • Student project presentation with facilitated discussion ( e.g., Gallery Walk)
  • Using social media (e.g., Pinterest) for students to share their work and discuss online.

What doesn’t count:

  • Formal collaborative learning techniques, such as Pair Programming, should be tagged with the EP “Collaborative Learning” rather than “Encourage Student Interaction.”