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Subject choice, attainment and representation in Computing (SCARI computing)

Research into computing education has shown that females are poorly represented in computer science qualifications, such as the recently introduced computer science GCSE. More recently, data has emerged to show females underperform compared to males in computer science, when attainment in other subjects is controlled for. However, the reasons for this phenomenon and its impact on their future academic and career choices remains unclear.

This project aims to explore the factors that explain female performance and participation in secondary school level computing with a particular focus on computer science (CS) exams. The study will use the National Pupil Dataset and School Workforce Census, complemented with qualitative data collected from school managers, students and school documentation. These factors will include student gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, their attitudes towards computing, self-efficacy beliefs, teacher qualifications and individual school computing curriculum, school type and geographical location.

Research will be focused on schools with high female representation and achievement, along with control schools, allowing us to better understand best practice. This study is important because it will impact policies and educational interventions to reduce the participation and attainment gaps between males and females in computing education.

This project is in collaboration with Dr Billy Wong at the University of Reading. The project is funded by the Nuffield Foundation and you can view the project on Nuffield's website here.

Aims

The overarching aim of this project is to provide evidence to inform policies and practices that can address the underperformance and uptake of females in secondary school level computing in England. The project will enable us to generate important new data and understandings into the current unequal patterns of attainment and participation in GCSE computer science (CS) and general computing provision in secondary schools.

The specific research questions are:

  • RQ1: What are the main predictors of female attainment in GCSE CS?
  • RQ2: What are the factors that explain schools with high female participation in GCSE CS?
  • RQ3: How do students’ attitudes and attainment in school level computing influence uptake and performance of the subject at later exam levels?

Methods

Analysis of national datasets: National Pupil Database, School Workforce Census. (The Privacy Notices are accessible for use of the NPD and for use of the SWFC.)

Selection of high performing secondary schools: Staff interviews, student questionnaires and document analysis.

Partners

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Nuffield Foundation

Project status: Starting

Principal investigators

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Peter Kemp

Lecturer in Computing Education

Funding

  • Funding body: Nuffield Foundation
  • Amount: £242,127
  • Period: March 2021 - April 2024

Contact

To learn more about the project, please email using the address below. 

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