Making Classrooms More Inviting May Help Recruit More Women Into Computer Science

University-Washington-logoResearchers at the University of Washington report in a new study that high school girls were more likely to enroll in computer science courses if classrooms were redesigned to appear “less geeky” and more inviting. Male and female science students were shown photographs of different classrooms where computer science classes would be held and then were asked if they had interest in enrolling in a computer science class. High school girls who were shown classrooms where computer parts and components were on tables and on the floor and Star Wars posters hung of walls tended to say they didn’t want to take computer sciences classes. But high school girls who were shown pictures of a classroom where there were posters of nature or artwork on the walls and there were plants on desks and tables were three times as likely to say they were interested in taking the computer science class. High schools boys showed no preference for either classroom.

AllisonAllison Master, a post-doctoral researcher at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences at the University of Washington and the lead author of the study, said that “our findings show that classroom design matters — it can transmit stereotypes to high school students about who belongs and who doesn’t in computer science.”

“Stereotypes make girls feel like they don’t fit with computer science,” Dr. Master continued. “That’s a barrier that isn’t there for boys. Girls have to worry about an extra level of belonging that boys don’t have to grapple with. Our study suggests that if schools and teachers feel they can’t 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.”

Dr. Master is a graduate of Yale University and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University.

The study, Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls’ Interest and Sense,” was published on the website of the Journal of Educational Psychology. It may be accessed here.

Filed Under: Research/Study


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