“But They Just Aren’t Interested in Computer Science” (Part Three)

Written by: Julie Smith

Note: this post is part of a series about the most-cited research studies related to K12 computer science education.

It’s discouraging to learn that children as young as age six express the belief that boys are better than girls at programming and at robotics, and girls have less interest in or belief in their ability to succeed in computing.

But the good news from the study Programming experience promotes higher STEM motivation among first-grade girls is that it was, in their experiment, actually not that difficult to improve girls’ interest and belief in their self-efficacy: all it took was twenty minutes in the lab with a cute robot that they could program with a smartphone. After that intervention, their interest and self-efficacy were statistically indistinguishable from boys; the same was not the case for girls who engaged in another activity unrelated to technology. 

There’s a reason this article is one of the most commonly-cited in the computer science education literature: the representation rates of women in computing – from high school courses through college majors and into the workforce – remains stubbornly low. This article suggests that, while stereotypes are adopted early, a relatively simple intervention for young children could perhaps be enough to overcome the effects of those stereotypes on girls’ interest in computing.

Further Reading


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