Rethinking CS0 to Improve Performance and Retention

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Date of Original Version



High failure and attrition rates in first-year, college-level computing courses are a big concern for institutions and instructors. For many years, computing instructors have devoted substantial time and energy to increase retention in those courses. Despite that, computer science is still facing the problem of student recruitment and retention especially for women and underrepresented minorities. Since students' background is hard to manipulate, instructors can motivate many aspects of student experience inside the class. This paper presents the results of strategic changes adopted in an introductory computer science course, including increasing in-class collaboration, diversifying the teaching assistant team, and changing lab placement. We compared performance, retention rate, sense of belonging, and pre-assessment quiz grades with students taking the same course from the previous year. Our results show that when first-year students take the course with the adoption of the new changes, retention rates and sense of belonging significantly increase, and students perform better. Women, in particular, show an increase in performance and retention rates. They actually did better than men when taking the updated class. Despite that, the new changes have unexpected effects on the underrepresented minorities.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

ACM International Conference Proceeding Series