Less ‘geeky’ classrooms attract girls to computer science

Washington, Aug 28 (IANS) Small changes in classroom design such as replacing “Star Trek” posters by that of art and nature pictures help attract more girls to computer science, new research has found.

The researchers have found that such changes do not impact boys’ level of interest in computer science.

“Our findings show that classroom design matters — it can transmit stereotypes to high school students about who belongs and who does not in computer science,” said lead author Allison Master, a post-doctoral researcher at University of Washington.

Women lag behind men in the lucrative computer science and technology industries, and one of the possible contributors to this disparity is that they are less likely to enroll in introductory computer science courses.

For this study, the research team showed 270 high school students photos of two different computer science classrooms decorated with objects that represented either the “geeky” computer science stereotype, including computer parts and “Star Trek” posters, or a non-stereotypical classroom containing items such as art and nature pictures.

The researchers found that more girls (68 percent) than boys (48 percent) preferred the non-stereotypical classroom.

And girls were almost three times more likely to say they would be interested in enrolling in a computer science course if the classroom looked less geeky.

“Our new study suggests that if schools and teachers feel they can not recruit girls into their computer science classes, they should make sure that the classrooms avoid stereotypes and communicate to students that everyone is welcome and belongs,” Master noted.

The study was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology.

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