Dr Reena Pau: Helping to narrow the gender gap in Computing

I had a very constructive informal meeting with Dr Reena Pau at the University of Southampton today. We discussed my project to encourage more girls to study GCSE Computer Science, particularly in the next academic year.

Survey Data

The most obvious way to measure the impact of any intervention will be to see how many girls in my school actually choose to study Computing at GCSE level next year.

In school there are many factors that influence a students’ choice of GCSE subjects, and I would like to additionally conduct a simple survey that identifies how likely girls are to choose GCSE Computing. I would like to complete this survey before and after any intervention strategies that I use to raise awareness of Computer Science as a subject.

Reena is an academic with lots of experience of research, and was able to give me some general advice on how best to create a survey that will generate meaningful data. For example, I will use the “focus group” of identified girls to help me create the survey questions (I do not know the full list of reasons why they might or might not be considering studying GCSE Computing). I must also consider how I would like to present my survey data when designing the questions.

Intervention Planning

Reena has also helped me create an outline plan of intervention strategies and events for my focus group of Year 8 girls.

Initial Meeting & Survey Design: I will meet with the focus group of students (over lunch at school) to explain the nature of this project, and to ask them questions that will help with my survey design.

Focus Group Discussion: Reena has kindly offered to help me conduct the survey, and also facilitate a discussion with the focus group. During this discussion we hope to better understand what girls know about Computer Science already, and perhaps raise their awareness of the subject and its importance/relevance in the modern world.

Parent Information Evening: Reena has also kindly offered to help me speak directly to parents about this project, and the value of Computer Science as a subject. Her research tells us that parents have a large influence over the subjects that students choose to follow at all levels (including GCSE).

University Visit: A final intervention idea is a one-day visit to the University of Southampton. During this day a subset of the focus group girls (numbers limited by minibus seating!) would tour the University and take part in a workshop looking at wearable technology. For many children this will be their first experience of Higher Education, and so a tour will be a brief insight into a potential future. The wearable tech workshop will hopefully help to reinforce the message that Computer Science is a multi-disciplinary subject that has relevance in lots of different areas.

The next step is to calendar each of these events!

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