Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Mini-Course 2010 Survey Results

Last year, I did a pretty detailed post mortem of my mini-course Computer Science and Games: Just for Girls. I had my students this year fill in a similar survey and would like to share a few of the results.

Before the Course

At the beginning of the course, before I even introduced myself, I collected some first impressions. Some of the responses for what made the girls decide to take this course include:
  • "The subject seemed really interesting so I chose it. Plus the fact it was just for girls was so cool!"
  • "I'm really into electronics and tech so I figured that taking a course related to computers, tech etc would be suitable for me."
  • "Making a video game instead of going to school. How much better could it get?"
  • "I might want to be a computer engineer like my dad when I grow up but I'm not sure..."
All the responses were positive, and many essentially summarized the sentiment that seeing how a game is made would be cool.

These were the responses for the question "I am confident that I understand what the field of computer science is":
  • Disagree: 2
  • Neutral/Don't Know: 8
  • Agree: 10
This is interesting because it shows some confidence in the subject. However, after the lessons on what computer science really is, many admitted that they had the wrong idea. This is a byproduct of never truly teaching computer science before high school, if even then. Many students see using computers as computer science.

Responses for "I would consider computer science as a good career for women in general":
  • Neutral/Don't Know:4
  • Agree: 11
  • Strongly Agree: 5
Responses for "I would consider computer science as a good career for me":
  • Neutral/Don't Know:13
  • Agree: 5
  • Strongly Agree: 2
This shows that the girls had a decent impression of computer science as a career for other women, but were noticeably less interested in it as a career for themselves. The surveys at the end of the course were intended to see if these impressions changed for many of the girls.

After the Course

On the last day of class, I gave another survey. Some of the questions were repeated so the answers could be correlated. A summary of some of the responses follows.

"Was this course your first choice?"
  • Yes: 12
  • No: 7
  • Don't remember: 1
"If no, did you enjoy it more than you expected?"
  • Yes: 7
  • No: 0
A few people who said it was their first choice answered the previous question on enjoying it more than expected as well:
  • Yes: 5
  • No: 3
I find it interesting that the only ones who didn't think the course was better than expected were those that made it their first choice. Of course, saying you didn't enjoy it more than you expected might just mean you expected to really like it, and it delivered. In fact, most responses on how much they enjoyed the individual topics of the course were pretty positive among the "no" group, with only one "disagree" where the student did not like learning about what computer science is all about (but liked the other topics).

The question "Would you have signed for the course if it wasn't just for girls?" had two parts. Responses to the first:
  • Yes: 14
  • No: 6
Responses for "Are you glad it was just for girls?" among those who said yes to the previous question:
  • Yes: 4
  • No: 1
  • I'm happy as long as I'm not the only girl: 9
Responses among those who said no:
  • Yes: 5
  • No: 0
  • I'm happy as long as I'm not the only girl: 1
As expected, while many say they would have signed up for a mixed class, their appreciation that it ended up being all girls makes this all-girls course worthwhile. I also tend to wonder if they really would have signed up for a mixed version knowing that there was a good chance they really could be the only girl.

Here are the responses of the repeat of "I would consider computer science as a good career for me":
  • Neutral/Don't Know: 16
  • Agree: 1
  • Strongly Agree: 3
This is disheartening, and I don't remember seeing this kind of drop in the past (though it's good not to see any disagrees!). It's strange, too, because everyone rated learning about the computer science topics favourably. I wish I could get more insight into this answer. Perhaps it really is a case of "I don't know" - after all, they are probably too early in their lives to know what they want to do.

There's one last question I want to summarize for this post. "I am more likely to try computer science in high school after taking this course":
  • Neutral/Don't Know: 6
  • Agree: 9
  • Strongly Agree: 5
This looks a lot more promising. Hopefully our high school courses will be ready to continue the excitement of the topic and a few of these girls continue on to university. Based on the state of things when I was in high school, I don't have a lot of confidence, but if programs like the K-12 Computer Teacher's Workshop at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing continue, there is hope.


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