Leadership Practicum – Communicating Across Expertise


CICS298A – UMass Amherst – Spring 2020


Course Information



Emma Anderson emmaanderson@cs.umass.edu


Thursdays 2:30-3:45


CS Room 140


CS186 OR CS187


None required

Office Hours

Fridays 10-11am, CS building room 228





In this course, each voice in the classroom has something of value to contribute. Please take care to respect the different experiences, beliefs and values expressed by students and staff involved in this course. My colleagues and I support UMass’s commitment to diversity, and welcome individuals regardless of age, background, citizenship, disability, sex, education, ethnicity, family status, gender, gender identity, geographical origin, language, military experience, political views, race, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and work experience.



Course Description


This course is designed to help all students in computing sciences hone their skills for communicating technical topics to a less technical audience. Students in this class will receive first-hand experience through one-on-one tutoring and an enriched teaching knowledge through research-based pedagogical studies.

Course Goals and Objectives


This course seeks to assist students in increasing their empathy and awareness of equity issues surrounding the computing sciences, as well as their understanding of best practices for teaching and communicating technical information.  These skills are useful for present and future UCAs, but also for anyone seeking a career in computing, whether in industry or education.



The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to providing an equal educational opportunity for all students. If you have a documented physical, psychological, or learning disability on file with Disability Services (DS), you may be eligible for reasonable academic accommodations to help you succeed in this course. If you have a documented disability that requires an accommodation, please notify me within the first two weeks of the semester so that we may make appropriate arrangements.


Where to find stuff


All assignments, readings, and links will be on Moodle.  Please let me know if you do not have access!


Weekly duties


All readings are available on Moodle.  For the most part, readings are fairly short.  You will be expected to come to class each week prepared discuss each week’s reading.


This is the key commitment for this course. You are required to tutor a total of 15 hours, due by the end of the semester.


Students in 121, 186 or 187 can request one-on-one tutoring via the tutoring form, to be used weekly. Every week, we will link all of these requests on Saturday evening on this course webpage for tutors to claim students. This will be in the form of a spreadsheet with the current week of students who have requested tutoring; you can claim any student who is available at a time convenient for you. After the appointment, be sure your student fills out the tutoring feedback formIf they don't, then you will not get credit for teaching them.


A template email for contacting students in a friendly, professional manner will be available on Moodle for you to use and modify to arrange tutoring appointments. Be sure to do this in a timely manner, ideally arranging all of your appointments by the end of Sunday night.


If you have any questions about the tutoring requirement, feel free to ask in-class or email me. Later in the semester, you will be able to track this commitment and view student feedback automatically via the feedback viewer for tutors. To maintain professionality, do not talk to your students about feedback they may have given you; it forces an uncomfortable situation and your instructors and peers in CICS298A can provide you with more constructive ways on improving your feedback.


Tutoring Cancellations / No Shows

For variations in the amount of weekly tutoring you do, there is no need to contact the course staff. If a student cancels with 24 hour notice, simply contact a new student from the tutoring spreadsheet and arrange a new appointment. If a student does not show, mark this somehow on the tutoring spreadsheet where your name normally would go. (e.g., instead of writing "Christopher" in the first column, write "NO-SHOW" clearly.) Course staff will use this information for later, but there is no need to email us.


For exceptions or questions regarding course policy, contact the instructors. In-class attendance is mandatory except with an excused absence, per an e-mail to the course staff.





This course is graded P/F.  No letter grades will be assessed for any individual task in the course.  In order to earn a P grade, you must do the following:

Attend 75% of class meetings
Complete 12 hours of tutoring 
Complete a final presentation for the course.

It is possible to receive an F if your feedback from tutees is consistently *extremely* poor.







Reading (all are linked on Moodle)


Introduction, on effective tutors

10 Characteristics of an Effective Tutor


Stress, Learning and the Brain

What You Should Know About Your Brain (Judy Willis)


Vygotsky, Bloom, and Growth Mindset

ZPD summary, Bloom’s Taxonomy chart, “Fixed vs. Growth” from BrainPickings


Ways of Thinking and Knowing in CS and Multiple Intelligences

Computational Thinking: What and Why (Jeannette Wing); Multiple Intelligence Quiz


Cognitive Apprenticeship

Cognitive Apprenticeship: Making Thinking Visible (Collins et al);


Addressing Misconceptions

Misconceptions as Barriers to Understanding


Imposter Syndrome and Stereotype Threat

Picture Yourself A Stereotypical Man


Implicit Bias; Protecting and Advocating for Students

“Claimed Spaces” from Stuck In The Shallow End





Assessment: Rubrics and More

Assessment Basics: CMU


Communication Skills



Presentation Skills



Final Presentations



Final Presentations