Girls ‘just as good as boys’ at computer science work

follow 3 pngThis week the Irish Independent published an article reporting on some work by Maynooth University colleagues Keith Quille, Susan Bergin, and Natalie Culligan, focussing on gender aspects of performance in computer science, and how computer science as an academic subject is experienced. The paper was presented at the 2017 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education in Bologna, Italy, and is available in the ACM Digital Library.

From their abstract:

This paper describes a multivariate, multi-institutional study conducted in the academic year 2015-16. Six hundred and ninety-three students participated from 11 institutions, (ten institutions in Ireland and one in Denmark). The goal of the study was to compare the profile of male and female students enrolled on introductory programming modules (CS1), to determine if any significant differences could be identified by gender. The gender split was 79:21, male to female respectively. The study took place early in the CS1 module with three instruments used to capture data: a background survey, a survey on programming self-efficacy, comfort and anxiety, and a short programming test. At the end of the module, the overall result for each participant was gathered. Of importance, the study was conducted across multiple levels of Computer Science education, from Level 5 Certificate up to and including Honors Bachelor Degree and Higher Diploma, (which are based on the Irish National Framework of Qualifications NFQ). This paper describes the approach taken and the detailed analysis performed. Several significant differences between male and female students were identified early in CS1, some of which did not hold true at the end of the module. A gender comparison between the two participating countries and the different institution types was also performed and discussed. The findings could be used to positively influence teaching practice and to the development of gender focused retention and recruitment strategies.

It’s great to see work like this getting the spotlight. In the Irish context it is particularly timely, as Ireland is rolling out a computer science curriculum nationwide next September which I have written about here, here, here, here, and here. More details on that are available there, there, there, there and there.

As this is a particularly ‘Irish’ post, I took the liberty of setting the featured image to one of Kylemore Abbey in beautiful Connemara. However, this theme doesn’t show featured images on individual blog views. So if you can’t see it now, you’ll have to go to the main page, or click here to see it. Bummer.



3 thoughts on “Girls ‘just as good as boys’ at computer science work

    1. That is really interesting! Computer Science in the 1960s at an all-girls religious boarding school in Connemara! I wonder what was that like! I wish there was more detail. The first Computer Science degree program was at Cambridge in 1953. The first in the US was at Purdue in 1962. Computer Science as an academic discipline was only being born in the 1960s. There is a great paper ‘Computer Science Curriculum
      Developments in the 1960s’ here:


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