Piloting a multi-site data science CURE to increase STEM persistence among minority students

Rosa Alcazar, Ph.D.
Biology Instructor
Clovis Community College

The national need for students from diverse populations to enter the STEM workforce or graduate school is high. This research aims to increase the retention and completion rates of students majoring in computer science (CS) and information technology (IT). We developed an education model providing curriculum support for critical early transition points in the majors, along with innovative faculty development to improve undergraduate CS and IT teaching and learning success, and improve degree completion rates.

Research questions investigated as part of this work address both student and faculty:
1. To what extent does a CS/IT major-specific freshman orientation improve student first year success and retention?
In fall 2020 and fall 2021, we held CS/IT major specific student orientations virtually. Student surveys indicate a greater understanding of the major, expectations, faculty role, and co-curricular activities.

2. To what extent does gamification encourage student engagement in the co-curricular activities? To what extent does participation in gamified co-curricular activities support student success?
Beginning in 2020, we developed a mobile game app, tailored to support CS/IT major student engagement in co-curricular activities, now used by the students.

3. To what extent does revision of the CS0/CS1/CS2 curriculum improve student success, as defined by average grade and reduced DFW rates in key courses?
Data gathered to date show improvement, particularly with the inclusion of problem-solving strategies.

4. To what extent is supplemental instruction (SI) participation associated with improved student success in the targeted course, as measured at the individual level and course level?
Data gathered in years 1-2 should that students who attended SI sessions averaged higher grades, particularly in CS0. SI attendance contributes to successful CS0 outcomes for students.

5. To what extent do guided pathways and career building activities support student success? and To what extent do guided pathways and career building activities support retention in the major, as compared with historical data?
Data continues to be gathered.

6. How do faculty make changes to their teaching practices? What preparation and training practices are valuable in shifting curriculum and changing pedagogy?
Faculty development in growth mindset has resulted in changes to classroom pedagogy, including assignments and lecture, leading to greater student success.

The outcomes of this project will include new methods for engaging students, both in and out of the classroom, as well as demonstrated pedagogical approaches for using growth mindset approaches in the university classroom. Analysis of collected data will determine how participation in cohort communities, pre-professional career activities, and research groups changes students’ computing identify perceptions, interest, persistence, and growth in the discipline.

Broader Impacts of this work will include evidence-based activities that other institutions may adopt on effective strategies on how to enhance student success in CS and IT majors, particularly for underrepresented students in the major.


Rosa Alcazar, Clovis Community College, Fresno, CA 93730; Stephanie Coffman, Clovis Community College, Fresno, CA 93730; Lindsay Hayes, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218; Matthew McCoy, Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, CA 94305; Jai Won Kim, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218; Katherine Cox, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21218; Frederick J Tan, Carnegie Institution, Baltimore, MD 21218