Dr. Lisa Kaczmarczyk is an award-winning computer science researcher, educator and book author. She provides independent evaluation services for academia and the hi-tech industry. These evaluations are used as evidence of project viability to secure funding from grant agencies and investors.
Her clients have included Google, Stanford University, the University of Illinois, Purdue University, California State University and the Broward County Florida Public Schools. Dr. Kaczmarczyk is also an Adjunct Faculty in the Computer Science Department at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont California. Dr. Kaczmarczyk holds advanced degrees from the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Oregon, Northeastern University and Tufts University. Dr. Kaczmarczyk was lead author on the 2014 ACM Education Policy Committee report “Rebooting the Pathway to Success: Preparing Students for Computing Workforce Needs in the United States” and is author of the book “Computers and Society, Computing for Good.” She is passionate about working with clients who share her desire to use computer science to make the world a better place.
Q: Lisa, you recently received an award for the Top Computer Science Education Research Paper of the Last 50 Years. What was this paper on and why is it so important?
“The paper is sharing the results of a research study about misconceptions that novice computer science students have. Computer science is also a very abstract topic and the mistakes that students make are often baffling. The paper reports on the misconceptions that students have and why they have them. It’s important because this paper was the first to apply rigorous research methods to investigating misconceptions.”
Q: How does this research fit into your current work?
“It does in that the ‘misconceptions study’ presented faculty with evidence-based information to help them make strategic choices about how to improve their instruction so it would be more effective. The work that I do now in project evaluation is also about providing people in organizations research-based information to help them make strategic decisions about their projects.”
Q: What is project evaluation?
“Project evaluation can exist in any field. I work primarily with computer scientists and engineers. They may be in universities or K-12 school systems, or they may be outside of academia. It’s when you have a project and you want to know that the project is having the impact that you hope it is having. In the case of the work I’m doing, there’s a formal research component that is being conducted by the people in charge of the project, but there are a lot of other factors that impact whether the project will be successful or not. So, the evaluation comes in and takes a look at what are their needs, what do they need to know. I develop a customized plan for whoever I’m working with to figure out the best way to gather information to help them with their project.
Q: Why would you need to do a project evaluation for an academic project?
“Nowadays it’s very difficult to get funding from the National Science Foundation if you don’t have a project evaluation.”
Q: What kinds of people issues come up during project evaluations?
“Very often I’m asked to take a look at complex projects where there are a lot of people involved. Recently, I concluded a project with the Broward County Schools in Florida. The project they had funding for was to integrate computer science into the elementary day classroom. There was a research program to look into the effect on student achievement of the elementary school students. It spanned across the entire district and there were about ten schools involved and there were a lot of different moving parts. There were a lot of different people who needed to be on board for it to succeed.”
To hear more about the complex people issues that arise in Lisa’s project evaluations with schools, high-tech incubators, and non-profit organizations, as well as about Lisa’s surprising background, listen to the episode.
Words of Wisdom:
“Trust-building is what it’s all about.”
“The ideal scenario is that nothing is a surprise.”
“If I see something bothersome, I won’t wait. I say, ‘Let’s talk.’”