Inspiring Confidence Through Achievement: Inclusive Teaching in Computer Science

MARY LOU DORF (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science,College of Engineering)

EECS 183 “Elementary Programming Concepts” introduces many U-M students to computing and computer science, and its design dispels stereotypes about what programming is, and who can be programmers. Beginning students often struggle with confidence in their ability to succeed. Female students and underrepresented minorities—who are less likely to have prior experience according to U-M data—are disproportionately impacted. Every aspect of the course is created to be explicitly inclusive. Women and other minority groups in computing are represented in the teaching staff, lecture materials, course projects, and all course materials in general.

Undertaking a substantial programming project and showcasing their teams’ successes build students’ confidence through a sense of earned accomplishment at an early stage of the computer science curriculum. The project becomes tangible evidence that the student can actually do the work of a computer scientist, empowering women and other underrepresented groups to continue on in the major and into the field. Building on the success of the authentic learning opportunities provided, the course boosts retention of students who may otherwise become discouraged and leave before hitting a traditional capstone project.

Student Comments

“I absolutely loved EECS 183. I found that I wanted to complete assignments and projects for 183 before work for any of my other classes, and that I enjoyed the process of learning and applying concepts to solve complex problems.”

“I never felt more accomplished than when I finished a project or fixed a bug I had been struggling with for hours at a time.”

“I loved getting the chance to be creative and explore computer science concepts on my own, and create something I could show my friends and family, as well as companies, at the Showcase.”

“Completing the project made me more confident in my abilities as a programmer and a student, and getting the chance to present at the Showcase was a great opportunity to demonstrate what I had learned throughout the term and also to witness other students’ creativity.”

“There is no doubt that EECS 183 has changed my life. It is and truly will remain my favorite class ever.”

Above photo:
MARY LOU DORF (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, College of Engineering)
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