To Get Girls More Interested in Computer Science, Make Classrooms Less 'Geeky'

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

A newly published study by I-LABS researchers reveals a practical way for teachers to help narrow the gender gap.

The study, published online August 17 in the Journal of Educational Psychology, shows that three times as many high school girls were interested in enrolling in a computer science class if the classroom was redesigned to be less "geeky" and more inviting.

"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," said lead author Allison Master, a post-doctoral researcher at I-LABS.

Co-author Andrew Meltzoff, co-director of I-LABS, added: "Identity and a sense of belonging are important for adolescents. Our approach reveals a new way to draw girls into pipeline courses. It is intriguing that the learning environment plays such a significant role in engaging high school girls in computer science."

Sapna Cheryan, a UW associate professor of psychology, is also a co-author of the study, which was funded by the National Science Foundation.

Read the UW news release
Read the research study


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