Increasing Students’ Persistence in Computer Science through a Lightweight Scalable Intervention

Bita Akram
Teaching Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University

Research has shown that high self-assessment of ability, sense of belonging, and professional role confidence are crucial for students’ persistence in computing. As grades in introductory computer science courses tend to be lower than in other courses, it is essential to provide students with contextualized feedback about their performance in these courses. Giving students unambiguous and contextualized feedback is especially important during COVID when many classes have moved online, and instructors and students have fewer opportunities to interact. In this project, we investigate the effect of a lightweight, scalable intervention on students’ self-assessment, sense-of belonging, professional role confidence, intentions to persist, and their actual persistence. We further investigate the underlying reasons behind gender-based differences in self-assessment in computing fields. During our intervention, students receive personalized, contextualized feedback from their instructors after two major assignments during the semester. After each intervention, we collected survey data to assess students’ self-assessment of computing ability, sense of belonging, intentions to persist in computing, professional role confidence, and their course enrollment in future semesters. Our results have shown that providing students with personalized feedback can significantly improve their self-assessment of computing ability, significantly improving their intentions to persist in computing. Furthermore, our results have demonstrated that our intervention can significantly improve students’ sense of belonging, professional role confidence, and the likelihood of stating an intention to pursue a major in computer science. Instructors can readily adapt this intervention across all introductory computer science courses at different institutions to improve students’ experience, self-efficacy, and persistence.


Susan Fisk, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio; Spencer Yoder, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Cynthia Hunt, Kent State University, Kent, Ohio; Thomas Price, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Lina Battestilli North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; Rachel Harred, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC; and Tiffany Barnes,North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC;