Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Subcategory: STEM Science and Mathematics Education
Kinnis Gosha - Morehouse College
Co-Author(s): Chance Lewis and Jennifer Albert
The vision for the Exploring Computing Careers Broadening Participation Research project is to develop a virtual career fair using embodied conversational agents (ECAs) that will engage students in career discussions and, if they have interest in computing, help inspire them to reach their potential in computing careers. High school students in North Carolina and undergraduate students of Morehouse College will benefit by receiving up-to-date career information from computing professionals currently in the field via the ECAs. ECAs will be presented to students in three formats; traditional question and answer, storytelling, and culturally relevant storytelling. Students in both rural and urban settings will be compared across a variety of measures including self-efficacy, career interests and their responses to the three types of ECAs. In addition, a cohort of four undergraduate students from Morehouse College will participate throughout the project by creating ECAs, collecting and processing data, and receiving extensive training by two educational researchers.
The Exploring Computing Careers project is innovative in that: 1) Students will receive career information through ECAs; 2) ECAs will be developed to be culturally relevant; 3) Students in both rural and urban contexts will be compared; and 4) Assistantships in Computer Science at Morehouse College will be enhanced through additional training in research methods and careers. Intellectual Merit. The Exploring Computing Careers project builds upon work with ECAs as mentors to undergraduates interested in attending graduate school (Gosha, 2013). The ECAs for this project will be constructed using interviews with computing professionals currently working in the field to ensure relevant, up-to-date information using indicators of success for African Americans as a guideline (Bonner, Lewis, Bowman-Perrotm Hill- Jackson, & James, 2009). Previous work showed no significant differences between ECAs and human mentors when helping undergraduates make decisions about pursuing graduate studies. Many of the students who will participate in this study represent a population that is currently underrepresented in computing majors and careers. Previous work in similar districts used STEM career videos shown throughout the school year to middle school students as a means of influencing student awareness of and interest in STEM careers (Blanchard, Albert, Williams, & Alsbury, 2013). These students showed increased knowledge of careers and more sophisticated interests. They also found that the presence of role models was a predictor of interest.
This project will expand upon this understanding and connect it specifically to students’ interest in pursuing a degree, computing or other, at a HBCU.
Broader Impacts. The Exploring Computing Careers project implements an innovative, sustainable solution for bringing career information to urban and rural, high need districts to foster entry of underrepresented students into computing majors and careers. Data collected on student attitudes, interest, knowledge of careers, self-efficacy and perception of possible selves will help to guide improvements to the ECAs. At the conclusion of the research, the infrastructure (i.e. embodied conversational agents, career content, etc.) will remain in place, online for any teacher, student, or parent wishing access. In addition, as undergraduate research assistants with extensive training, these students will be well suited to pursue graduate studies. Twelve of Dr. Gosha’s students elected to pursue a Ph.D. in Computer Science over the last three years. Findings will be presented at local and national conferences and through journal publications.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): The NSF
Faculty Advisor: None Listed,