Research Alliance Deputy Director Cheri Fancsali contributed to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM), “Cultivating Interest and Competencies in Computing: Authentic Experiences and Design Factors.” She served on the NAS Committee on the Role of Authentic STEM Learning Experiences in Developing Interest and Competencies for Computing, which developed the report.

The lack of diversity in the computing workforce and learning programs is well documented, and women and minorities remain underrepresented in both. In this new report, researchers explore how authentic experiences — that is, learning activities that both reflect professional practice and connect learners to real-world problems they care about — can engage youth in computing and develop their interest in continuing to pursue computing opportunities. The report found that learning experiences that are designed with attention to K-12 learners’ interests, identities, and backgrounds may better attract underrepresented groups to computing than learning experiences that mimic professional computing practices and culture. The report offers a set of recommendations for how to create such learning environments.