Author Archives: Sepi Hejazi Moghadam

ExploreCSR grants get more women into computer science research

Since 2000, women have earned only one in five computer science doctoral degrees, one of the lowest in all science and engineering disciplines. As part of our efforts to get more women involved in computer science research careers and make them more accessible to everyone, we’re giving our latest round of exploreCSR grants to 24 universities. With these grants, universities will design workshops to encourage and support more women to pursue research careers in CS.

Princess Sampson, a sophomore at Spelman College studying CS, went to one of last year’s workshops, made possible by an exploreCSR grant. We recently checked in with her about her experience and how it helped her CS research career path.

What inspired your interest in computer science research?
I have always been relentlessly curious. I was raised in Atlanta's Black tech ecosystem, and as a child, I turned one of the bathrooms in my house into a science lab. CS research directly impacts tech product innovations, and it is important that Black women contribute to this knowledge-making.

What motivated you to participate in an exploreCSR supported workshop?
I met Dr. Ayanna Howard, a pioneer for women of color in computing, at South by Southwest. She inspired me to immerse myself in an environment of ambitious women with goals similar to my own.

What did you learn from the exploreCSR workshop?
Advice on how to enter and navigate STEM-focused academic spaces as a woman of color. We were provided with timelines for applying to graduate schools and advice on selecting research experiences or industry work during the summer. Speakers and mentors constantly reiterated the importance of taking self-care as seriously as our academic work. Additionally, even though I entered the program having already decided to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in CS, hearing the stories of women who have had careers in industry in addition to academia made it clear that I don't have to pick one over the other.

What advice do you have for others starting their journeys to becoming computer science researchers?
Discover how CS intersects with other fields that you're passionate about. Every field needs people who understand computer science. Research isn't some far off career; students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are integral to the day to day functioning of almost every lab or initiative. Find out what's going on at your institution and see how you can become involved.

And what are you looking forward to most about the start of a new school year?
In my sophomore year of college, I will be cross-registered at Georgia Tech in addition to my CS coursework at Spelman, taking electives for my philosophy minor, conducting research, as well as continuing my work with the Spelbots (Spelman's robotics and CS outreach organization). I am excited to continue growing as both a human being and an academic.

We are proud to partner with this year’s exploreCSR universities working to increase awareness and participation of women in CS research careers and look forward to hearing from more students like Princess.

New research explores unconscious bias in the classroom

Although we often believe we act without bias or stereotyping, we’re all subject to unconscious biases: automatic, mental shortcuts we use to process information and make decisions quickly. These shortcuts are useful, but can also subtly and negatively influence our actions. And in the classroom, they can have serious consequences—educators could unintentionally discriminate against some of their students, discouraging them from pursuing certain fields of study.

Our latest research, done in partnership with Thomas Dee of Stanford University and Seth Gershenson from American University, found evidence of unconscious bias at play in classrooms. One study showed that when white and Black teachers evaluated the same Black student, white teachers were significantly more likely to perceive the Black student as disruptive, inattentive, and less likely to complete homework. Another study found that teachers perceived preschoolers’ misbehavior as worse when observing students of a race different than their own. At the college-level, one study showed that when female college students have a female math or science professor, they perform better in those classes and are more likely to engage with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in the future.

To better understand this complex problem and how we might address it, we’re investing in two new research projects at University of California Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These projects will place an emphasis on the effects of teacher biases in computer science and STEM fields, where the underrepresentation of female, Black and Hispanic students is a longstanding concern.

At University of California Berkeley, Professor Jason Okonofua and his team of researchers want to know if teachers can become more empathetic when disciplining students. They hypothesize that helping teachers better understand the thoughts and feelings of their students will lead to a more fair and equal approach to disciplining students. The UC Berkeley researchers will develop and test an exercise to foster empathy among K-12 teachers at over 20 schools.

At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Justin Reich and a team of researchers will simulate tough classroom situations to help teachers reflect, learn, and improve their practice. Example situations include one student dominating others during group work, putting his or her head down on the desk during a lab assignment, or taking out a cell phone during class. Each simulation culminates in a “volatile moment of instruction” to which the teacher must respond. The demographics of the students will be randomized to help teachers identify and observe where their unconscious biases might be influencing their responses.

Over the next two years, we will learn from these experiments, figure out what works, and share these findings with the education community. By focusing on educators, we can help them become aware of their unconscious biases and learn how they can adjust their actions to support diverse students in computer science and STEM. In the long run, we hope this research will create equality of opportunity for all students regardless of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds.

To learn more about Google's Computer Science Education Research, please visit g.co/cseduresearch

New research explores unconscious bias in the classroom

Although we often believe we act without bias or stereotyping, we’re all subject to unconscious biases: automatic, mental shortcuts we use to process information and make decisions quickly. These shortcuts are useful, but can also subtly and negatively influence our actions. And in the classroom, they can have serious consequences—educators could unintentionally discriminate against some of their students, discouraging them from pursuing certain fields of study.

Our latest research, done in partnership with Thomas Dee of Stanford University and Seth Gershenson from American University, found evidence of unconscious bias at play in classrooms. One study showed that when white and Black teachers evaluated the same Black student, white teachers were significantly more likely to perceive the Black student as disruptive, inattentive, and less likely to complete homework. Another study found that teachers perceived preschoolers’ misbehavior as worse when observing students of a race different than their own. At the college-level, one study showed that when female college students have a female math or science professor, they perform better in those classes and are more likely to engage with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects in the future.

To better understand this complex problem and how we might address it, we’re investing in two new research projects at University of California Berkeley and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. These projects will place an emphasis on the effects of teacher biases in computer science and STEM fields, where the underrepresentation of female, Black and Hispanic students is a longstanding concern.

At University of California Berkeley, Professor Jason Okonofua and his team of researchers want to know if teachers can become more empathetic when disciplining students. They hypothesize that helping teachers better understand the thoughts and feelings of their students will lead to a more fair and equal approach to disciplining students. The UC Berkeley researchers will develop and test an exercise to foster empathy among K-12 teachers at over 20 schools.

At Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Justin Reich and a team of researchers will simulate tough classroom situations to help teachers reflect, learn, and improve their practice. Example situations include one student dominating others during group work, putting his or her head down on the desk during a lab assignment, or taking out a cell phone during class. Each simulation culminates in a “volatile moment of instruction” to which the teacher must respond. The demographics of the students will be randomized to help teachers identify and observe where their unconscious biases might be influencing their responses.

Over the next two years, we will learn from these experiments, figure out what works, and share these findings with the education community. By focusing on educators, we can help them become aware of their unconscious biases and learn how they can adjust their actions to support diverse students in computer science and STEM. In the long run, we hope this research will create equality of opportunity for all students regardless of socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds.

To learn more about Google's Computer Science Education Research, please visit g.co/cseduresearch

Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree

Editor's note: This piece was authored in collaboration with our research partners, Shanna Jaggars, Research Affiliate, Community College Research Center and Louise Ann Lyon, Senior Research Associate, ETR

Our latest research shows that students who attend community colleges on the way to computer science (CS) bachelor’s degrees encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way. But there are many ways for community colleges and four-year colleges to work together and with industry to remove these obstacles and support students seeking to transfer into CS majors.

Today, we are releasing two complementary research reports that explore the pathways that community college students follow to a bachelor’s degree in CS. The reports also examine the experiences of these students and the opportunities that exist or that might be created to ensure their successful career advancement. Longitudinal Analysis of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees investigates the national landscape of CS students at community colleges in order to better understand student behaviors and institutional characteristics that support or hinder community college students’ efforts to attain a CS bachelor’s degree. The companion report, Student Perspectives of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees, takes a complimentary in-depth and qualitative look at the experiences of students from underrepresented groups at community colleges in California, a state that enrolls one quarter of all community college students in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics by 2024 nearly 4.6 million high wage jobs will be in CS and related fields, yet there has not been enough graduates to meet demand. The shortage of CS bachelor’s degree earners is particularly severe among groups historically underrepresented in the field, where in 2013–2014, only 18% were awarded to women, 11% to Black students, and 9% to Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics). To address these gaps, the national spotlight has focused on the K-12 and university levels.

But unfortunately community colleges are often overlooked in efforts to increase diversity for the CS field despite the fact that these institutions serve large numbers of traditionally underrepresented students--45% of all U.S. undergraduates are educated at community colleges, including 57% of Hispanic and 52% of Black undergraduates (American Association of Community Colleges). That’s a large and diverse population.


[edu] cclaunchblog2 (1).png

However, plenty of work still remains, as our research shows the community college pathway to a CS bachelor’s degree is not universally accessible. For those community college students that do go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in CS, we found that they were:

  • Focused and fortunate from the start. Of the the nearly 1.8 million students who entered higher education for the first time through a community college in the 2007–2008 academic year, 235,388 of them earned a bachelor’s degree by August 2014. Among the bachelor’s degree earners, 3,290 earned a CS bachelor’s degree. The CS bachelor’s degree earners didn’t change schools as much as their peers; and, many grew up near tech hubs and in high socioeconomic neighborhoods where their community college had strong transfer supports and their four-year college had strong programs for CS transfers.  

  • Male and transferred before earning a community college degree or certificate. Only 12% were female, compared with 50% of other STEM and 56% of non-STEM transfer bachelor’s degree earners. CS bachelor’s degree earners were also less likely than their peers to earn a community college associate degree or certificate.

[edu] cclauchblog (1).png

The potential for large and diverse populations to transfer and complete CS bachelor’s degrees is not being fully realized. Below are some of the key barriers that contribute to this phenomenon:

  • Lack of clear pathways are a major hurdle. The 3,290 CS bachelor’s degree earners in our dataset followed 1,213 distinct paths to graduation, and with insufficient information on pathways and requirements, many struggled to efficiently move through the prerequisite chain of classes in preparation for transfer.

  • Capacity constraints and strict requirements thwart progress. Limited capacity at both two- and four-year colleges, as well as strict requirements for CS majors that can’t be fulfilled at all community colleges limits progress for most students.

  • Students have limited knowledge about the application of CS. Community college students often have limited knowledge of “real world” CS settings and careers in CS, but are encouraged by “real world” exposure through projects, internships, and role models.  

In order to better support the diverse pool of community college students, including those who expressed an interest in CS and related fields or switched their major away from CS, we suggest the following strategies:

  • Develop program maps between two- and four-year colleges. Local two- and four-year institutions should work together to create CS-specific program maps with guidance on the courses that will transfer with guaranteed acceptance if requirements are met.

  • Provide institutional support and flexibility for community college students. Community colleges should provide students with academic and financial supports while also working with industry to redesign their CS programs to minimize required courses while offering programs that shorten remediation time.

  • Broaden knowledge of CS careers. Both community colleges and four-year colleges should proactively recruit students, especially female and minority transfer students, into CS by informing students of the salaries that can be earned, the number of job openings, and the variety of jobs that use CS skills.

To reach the diverse pool of students that community colleges already serve, universities and industry must work with community colleges to ensure the needs of community college students are met. Today’s reports illuminate opportunities to support collaboration efforts to increase successful participation in CS for all students, no matter where they start.

Community college pathways to a four-year computer science degree

Editor's note: This piece was authored in collaboration with our research partners, Shanna Jaggars, Research Affiliate, Community College Research Center and Louise Ann Lyon, Senior Research Associate, ETR

Our latest research shows that students who attend community colleges on the way to computer science (CS) bachelor’s degrees encounter many challenges and obstacles along the way. But there are many ways for community colleges and four-year colleges to work together and with industry to remove these obstacles and support students seeking to transfer into CS majors.

Today, we are releasing two complementary research reports that explore the pathways that community college students follow to a bachelor’s degree in CS. The reports also examine the experiences of these students and the opportunities that exist or that might be created to ensure their successful career advancement. Longitudinal Analysis of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees investigates the national landscape of CS students at community colleges in order to better understand student behaviors and institutional characteristics that support or hinder community college students’ efforts to attain a CS bachelor’s degree. The companion report, Student Perspectives of Community College Pathways to Computer Science Bachelor’s Degrees, takes a complimentary in-depth and qualitative look at the experiences of students from underrepresented groups at community colleges in California, a state that enrolls one quarter of all community college students in the U.S.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics by 2024 nearly 4.6 million high wage jobs will be in CS and related fields, yet there has not been enough graduates to meet demand. The shortage of CS bachelor’s degree earners is particularly severe among groups historically underrepresented in the field, where in 2013–2014, only 18% were awarded to women, 11% to Black students, and 9% to Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics). To address these gaps, the national spotlight has focused on the K-12 and university levels.

But unfortunately community colleges are often overlooked in efforts to increase diversity for the CS field despite the fact that these institutions serve large numbers of traditionally underrepresented students--45% of all U.S. undergraduates are educated at community colleges, including 57% of Hispanic and 52% of Black undergraduates (American Association of Community Colleges). That’s a large and diverse population.


[edu] community college research UPDATED

However, plenty of work still remains, as our research shows the community college pathway to a CS bachelor’s degree is not universally accessible. For those community college students that do go on to earn a bachelor’s degree in CS, we found that they were:

  • Focused and fortunate from the start. Of the the nearly 1.8 million students who entered higher education for the first time through a community college in the 2007–2008 academic year, 235,388 of them earned a bachelor’s degree by August 2014. Among the bachelor’s degree earners, 3,290 earned a CS bachelor’s degree. The CS bachelor’s degree earners didn’t change schools as much as their peers; and, many grew up near tech hubs and in high socioeconomic neighborhoods where their community college had strong transfer supports and their four-year college had strong programs for CS transfers.  

  • Male and transferred before earning a community college degree or certificate. Only 12% were female, compared with 50% of other STEM and 56% of non-STEM transfer bachelor’s degree earners. CS bachelor’s degree earners were also less likely than their peers to earn a community college associate degree or certificate.

[edu] cclauchblog (1).png

The potential for large and diverse populations to transfer and complete CS bachelor’s degrees is not being fully realized. Below are some of the key barriers that contribute to this phenomenon:

  • Lack of clear pathways are a major hurdle. The 3,290 CS bachelor’s degree earners in our dataset followed 1,213 distinct paths to graduation, and with insufficient information on pathways and requirements, many struggled to efficiently move through the prerequisite chain of classes in preparation for transfer.

  • Capacity constraints and strict requirements thwart progress. Limited capacity at both two- and four-year colleges, as well as strict requirements for CS majors that can’t be fulfilled at all community colleges limits progress for most students.

  • Students have limited knowledge about the application of CS. Community college students often have limited knowledge of “real world” CS settings and careers in CS, but are encouraged by “real world” exposure through projects, internships, and role models.  

In order to better support the diverse pool of community college students, including those who expressed an interest in CS and related fields or switched their major away from CS, we suggest the following strategies:

  • Develop program maps between two- and four-year colleges. Local two- and four-year institutions should work together to create CS-specific program maps with guidance on the courses that will transfer with guaranteed acceptance if requirements are met.

  • Provide institutional support and flexibility for community college students. Community colleges should provide students with academic and financial supports while also working with industry to redesign their CS programs to minimize required courses while offering programs that shorten remediation time.

  • Broaden knowledge of CS careers. Both community colleges and four-year colleges should proactively recruit students, especially female and minority transfer students, into CS by informing students of the salaries that can be earned, the number of job openings, and the variety of jobs that use CS skills.

To reach the diverse pool of students that community colleges already serve, universities and industry must work with community colleges to ensure the needs of community college students are met. Today’s reports illuminate opportunities to support collaboration efforts to increase successful participation in CS for all students, no matter where they start.

Source: Education