Understanding the Role of Gender in Engaging the Interest of Girls in Computer Science
More than 400 middle school participants from low income and rural backgrounds will develop skills in programming using App Inventor and learn about CS careers. 54 high school age students will act as mentors as they learn and teach computing skills.
The project will research the effects of single-gender computer science (CS) camps and gender aligned role models within that context. During the past 30 years, there has been a decrease of women earning computer science degrees and entering the CS workforce. To reverse this trend, there has been a surge of girls only programs for recruiting and mentoring girls in CS. Despite their popularity, however, there exists only minimal research on the efficacy of these programs to grow the population of women in CS and little is known about the most effective ways to implement these programs. The project will research the main effects and interactions between female-only and balanced gender CS camps and role models for middle school students. More specifically, the project will examine how gender influences girls' self-efficacy, interest, perceived social support, and skill development in CS. The findings can increase the effectiveness of such efforts and contribute to the diversification of this key workforce sector. The project will directly impact over 400 middle school participants from low income and rural backgrounds by introducing them to concepts of computing and providing experiences to develop skill and confidence that can set them on a path toward a CS career. The project will directly impact 54 high school age mentors as they learn and teach computing skills. Project research findings and learning resources will be widely disseminated to educational researchers and practitioners through research publications, educational conferences, publications oriented towards educators, social media, and a project website including research and curriculum materials. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of best practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to engaging students in learning and developing interest in STEM, information and communications technology (ICT), computer science, and related STEM content and careers.
The research goal is to contribute to the evidence about strategies and models that enhance girls interest in and capabilities to pursue CS programs and occupations. Building on a foundation of social cognitive theory, this study can identify empirically grounded principles to inform practice in this critical area. To research the influence of gender in these programs, the project will use a 2X2 quasi-experimental design guided by two research questions: (1) What are the main and interaction effects of gender-specific social competency modeling and single gender vs. balanced gender groupings on girls' interest, self-efficacy, perceived social support, and skill in CS in a summer camp context? and (2)How (if at all) do gender-specific social competency modeling and single gender vs. balanced gender groupings affect girls' interest, self-efficacy, perceived social support, and skill in CS camps? The research will directly inform best practice for recruiting girls into computing using evidence from a controlled study. Girls only programs are designed to create more empowering opportunities free from possible negative social pressures based on stereotypes of computing as a male activity. To date, no study has examined program outcomes in such a way that the differential influences of single vs. balanced gender environments and role models can be independently and jointly assessed.