IT educators may ensure greater student diversity with people-themed teaching
Two new research articles suggest simple ways for IT educators to plan teaching practices and course material in order to attract a broader student demographic. The research results were recently presented at the renowned ACM International Computing Education Research conference (ICER 2021).
The field of IT has always been male dominated. This is a great problem for society, because IT plays an important role in our everyday lives, and we risk surrounding ourselves with gender-biased solutions if all technology is exclusively designed by men for men. This is one of the reasons why there is an explicit desire in higher education, in the private sector, and at the political level to encourage more women to choose careers in IT. Historically, the problem has proven difficult to address, but new research from the Center for Computing Education Research (CCER) may provide part of the solution.
IT education for all
At CCER, a group of researchers have produced two research papers under the shared title Computing Educational Activities involving People rather than Things appeal more to Women. Both publications suggest that thematically rethinking IT education may translate into more female students – as well as male students without prior programming experience.
- The results are very interesting, because they suggest that we can engender greater diversity in IT education with very minor adjustments to teaching practices. It is my great hope that educators all over the world will use our recommendations to attract more women to the field of IT, just as it is my hope that they will attract more male students who might not otherwise have chosen an education in IT, says Head of Center for Computing Education Research, Associate Professor Claus Brabrand, who spearheads the interdisciplinary group of researchers behind the research project.
People vs. things
The researchers’ results are based on a study conducted among 500 Danish high-school students. The students were asked to choose between two versions of IT-exercises. The exercises were identical apart from a thematical variation; one exercise concerned people, the other concerned things. The study showed that female students were 2.7 times more likely to pick the exercise focused on people compared to their male peers. According to Claus Brabrand, rethinking teaching practices could be an easy fix to a complicated problem:
- We recommend IT educators favour exercises and assignments that focus on people rather than things. This will make the exercises appeal more to women as well as to both men and women without prior programming experience, he says.
Visit https://ccer.itu.dk/ for more information on the project.
- Melissa Høegh Marcher (ITU student)
- Ingrid Maria Christensen (ITU student)
- Therese Graversen (Statistician)
- Pawel Grabarczyk (Philosopher of technology)
- Claus Brabrand (Computing & Education Research)