Current data shows that girls are on the whole less interested than boys in computer science. Could stereotypes and the layout of computer classrooms have something to do with it?
Allison Master, Sapna Cheryan and Andrew N. Meltzoff , at the University of Washington, studied the impact of classroom design on girls' interest in computer science. As part of their work, they presented photos of a computer class to high school students. In one case, these classes wanted to be stereotyped from the current representation of the computer world. The class thus consisted of, for example, computer parts and equipment and posters from Star Trek. In the other case, these classes were intended to be a non-stereotypical representation of the computer world, and were decorated with art objects and posters depicting nature.
The students were then invited to answer various questions. Among other things, they were asked which class they preferred and their interest in enrolling in a computer course. They were also called to express themselves on the feeling of belonging to the world of computing.
The results indicate that girls prefer the representation of the non-stereotypical computer class in a proportion of 68 %. But the most interesting data is this: the proportion of girls saying they are interested in registering for a computer course in a class considered as non-stereotypical is three times higher than that wishing to take a course in a class considered as non-stereotypical. stereotype.
For their part, the boys did not show a preference for one or the other of the classes. Unlike girls, their interest in taking a computer course does not seem to have been influenced by this variable.
According to the researchers, the results of the study show that changing stereotypes can play a positive role in developing girls' interest in computer science. By extension, it could also spark their interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The research article, titled Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls' Interest and Sense of Belonging in Computer Science, was published in the Journal of Educational Psychology in August 2015.