The Role of Encouragement for Success in Computing Education, and how that differs by demographics

March 2, 2018 at 7:00 am 2 comments

A new report from NSF tells us a story that we’ve heard before — encouragement is a critical aspect of developing the confidence to succeed in CS. We found this in our statewide study in 2010, and Joanne Cohoon found this to be critical in her work. In our work, we found that encouragement was more critical for under-represented groups.  The new Google study tells us that the encouragement is not received equally.  The important part of Joanne’s work is that the encouragement could come from teachers of any gender.  This report is part of the growing trend to study the importance of affect in succeeding in computing education.

Students who have been told by parents or teachers they would be good at computer science (CS) are 2.5 to three times more likely to be interested in learning CS in the future, but students do not receive this encouragement equally. Additionally, despite positive perceptions about the CS field, lower personal perceptions of skills in math and science and a self-perceived low ability to learn CS may contribute to a gap in interest in CS among underrepresented groups that starts as early as age 14. This report summarizes key differences in interest in and confidence to learn CS among seventh- to 12th-grade students from underrepresented groups — girls, Black students and Hispanic students — as well as the level of encouragement to learn CS that these groups receive from key influencers such as parents and teachers, based on 2015- 2016 surveys.

Source: Google Report: Encouraging Students Toward Computer Science Learning

Entry filed under: Uncategorized. Tags: , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Raul Miller  |  March 2, 2018 at 9:20 am

    Question: how much of this kind of encouragement is “pure encouragement” and how much is “recognition of talents”?

    Also, is there a spectrum here, where the relevant “success cases” are a mix of both. Or are there significant populations which are “mostly just encouragement” and/or “mostly just recognition”?

    Put different: someone who wants to be a musician may want to focus on classical instruments or may want to focus on midi protocol issues or may want to focus on sampling or other dance music traditions, though all of those could be thought of as serving the “same” musical goals. The musical results will tend to sound different, and the activities leading to them will also have significant differences.

    Education has both “building on success” elements and “working through obstacles” elements, and often we can characterize the absence of one of those as an overabundance of the other… which leads back to my question, though perhaps there’s better ways of asking it.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  March 2, 2018 at 11:03 am

      In our statewide survey paper, we found that white and Asian men who thought that they were good at CS often pursued CS as a major and had an intention to persist in the major. For women and members of underrepresented groups (Blacks and Latino/a), simply a perception of being good in CS wasn’t enough. Intention to major and persistence in the major was mediated by encouragement.

      I think of it this way: You think you’re good at CS. If you’re a white or Asian guy, you figure that you’ll likely to well at it, so you pursue CS. If you’re not, you’re not sure you belong, or you’re not sure that you really ARE good at CS. Having external validation matters, a lot.


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