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- Gender-related effects of advanced placement computer science courses on self-efficacy, belongingness, and persistence
- Good, Jonathon Andrew
- Electronic Theses & Dissertations
The underrepresentation of women in computer science has been a concern of educators for multiple decades. The low representation of women in the computer science is a pattern from K-12 schools through the university level and profession. One of the purposes of the introduction of the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (APCS-P) course in 2016 was to help broaden participation in computer science at the high school level. The design of APCS-P allowed teachers to present computer...
Show moreThe underrepresentation of women in computer science has been a concern of educators for multiple decades. The low representation of women in the computer science is a pattern from K-12 schools through the university level and profession. One of the purposes of the introduction of the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles (APCS-P) course in 2016 was to help broaden participation in computer science at the high school level. The design of APCS-P allowed teachers to present computer science from a broad perspective, allowing students to pursue problems of personal significance, and allowing for computing projects to take a variety of forms. The nationwide enrollment statistics for Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles in 2017 had a higher proportion of female students (30.7%) than Advanced Placement Computer Science A (23.6%) courses. However, it is unknown to what degree enrollment in these courses was related to students’ plans to enroll in future computer science courses. This correlational study examined how students’ enrollment in Advanced Placement Computer Science courses, along with student gender, predicted students’ sense of computing self-efficacy, belongingness, and expected persistence in computer science. A nationwide sample of 263 students from 10 APCS-P and 10 APCS-A courses participated in the study. Students completed pre and post surveys at the beginning and end of their Fall 2017 semester regarding their computing self-efficacy, belongingness, and plans to continue in computer science studies. Using hierarchical linear modeling analysis due to the nested nature of the data within class sections, the researcher found that the APCS course type was not predictive of self-efficacy, belongingness, or expectations to persist in computer science. The results suggested that female students’ self-efficacy declined over the course of the study. However, gender was not predictive of belongingness or expectations to persist in computer science. Students were found to have entered into both courses with high a sense of self-efficacy, belongingness, and expectation to persist in computer science.The results from this suggests that students enrolled in both Advanced Placement Computer Science courses are already likely to pursue computer science. I also found that the type of APCS course in which students enroll does not relate to students’ interest in computer science. This suggests that educators should look beyond AP courses as a method of exposing students to computer science, possibly through efforts such as computational thinking and cross-curricular uses of computer science concepts and practices. Educators and administrators should also continue to examine whether there are structural biases in how students are directed to computer science courses. As for the drop in self-efficacy related to gender, this in alignment with previous research suggesting that educators should carefully scaffold students’ initial experiences in the course to not negatively influence their self-efficacy. Further research should examine how specific pedagogical practices could influence students’ persistence, as the designation and curriculum of APCS-A or APCS-P alone may not capture the myriad of ways in which teachers may be addressing gender inequity in their classrooms. Research can also examine how student interest in computer science is affected at an earlier age, as the APCS courses may be reaching students after they have already formed their opinions about computer science as a field.