Increasing the appeal of Computing Education to Women


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Computing Educational Activities Involving People Rather Than Things Appeal More to Women (Recruitment Perspective)

Paper: Read it here

Authors: Ingrid Maria Christensen, Melissa Høegh Marcher, Paweł Grabarczyk, Therese Graversen, and Claus Brabrand

Abstract: There is a strong need for a more equal gender balance within the computing field. In 1998, Richard A. Lippa uncovered a relationship between gender and preference within the People–Things spectrum, with women preferring People-oriented activities to a higher degree than men. The aim of this paper is twofold. First of all, we wish to determine if a similar relation can be established in the particular context of computing educational activities. Second of all, we wish to see if Lippa’s findings can be extrapolated to contemporary high-school students. To do that, we designed and conducted an experiment involving around 500 Danish high-school students who have been asked to choose between a People-themed version vs an isomorphic Things-themed version of four activities representative for computing education. The results show that the odds of a woman preferring a task involving People is 2.7 times higher than those of a man. The odds of a student without prior programming experience preferring a task involving People is 1.4 times higher than those of a student with programming experience. If we compare women without programming experience to men with programming experience the effect is even more pronounced; indeed, the combined effect is 3.8 (2.7 × 1.4). Our study implies a recommendation for computing educators to, whenever possible, favor educational activities involving People over Things. This makes educational activities appeal more to female students (and to students without programming experience), while not making a difference for male students (or students with programming experience). Since the experiment measured only the appeal of tasks (the users were not expected to perform them) the results we obtained can be useful for recruitment processes where the overall image and appeal of material makes a difference.



Computing Educational Activities Involving People Rather Than Things Appeal More to Women (CS1 Appeal Perspective)

Paper: Read it here 

Authors: Melissa Høegh Marcher, Ingrid Maria Christensen, Paweł Grabarczyk, Therese Graversen, and Claus Brabrand

Abstract: Prior research on recruitment of women to computing has established that computing tasks involving People rather than Things have been perceived as much more appealing by female high-school students (potentially recruitable as university computing students). This paper changes the focus from prospective to current university students and presents the results of a new experiment that advances and moves beyond earlier research in two crucial respects. First of all, the participants of the experiment are N=152 university students, who already study computing, rather than general high- school students. Second of all, the choice between a People-themed versus an isomorphic Things-themed version of an educational task now pertains to real (in fact, mandatory) assignments that the students had to perform, rather than hypothetical tasks. The change of experimental context, design, and methodology allows us to complement previous findings related to recruitment with suggestions significant for computing educational activities. The overall findings of the new experiment are consistent with that of the previous one. We find that, also at university, there is a visible preference for choosing People themed over Things themed computing tasks amongst women. The results also expose considerable variation between tasks in the effect of gender observed. At the same time, male students, in general, seem to be either indifferent to the themes or to slightly prefer People versions. This suggests that educators should consider favoring People themed assignments over ones involving Things.