Graduate Thesis Or Dissertation

 

The culture of undergraduate computer science education : its role in promoting equity within the discipline Public Deposited

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  • Although a concern for gender equity provided the framework for this research, the results of this study highlighted the fact that the question of equity should be broadened to include concern for the tier of talented women and men who currently choose not to persist in an undergraduate computer science major. This investigation captured the experience of three male and two female first year undergraduate computer science majors (and two instructors) over the course of their first two college terms. Sources of data included interviews, classroom observations, electronic mail journal comments, and casual conversation. Subtle elements of potential gender discrimination were a part of the rich data collected but the students did not mention such factors. Rather, in faithfully portraying the students' perspectives, this research presented the students' candid discussion of the function of more obvious factors in their experiences. Difficulties with concepts of mathematical proof and computer programming were significant factors in the students' experiences. Students not experienced with mathematical proof or computer programming failed to develop an understanding of the basic principles in the respective course. Student difficulties were matched by the struggles of teaching faculty as they looked for input to support improvement in their teaching. Many of the factors identified by the students were found in the general undergraduate experience. All of the students knew little about careers in computer science and were anxious to learn more. The female students wanted their career to involve work they enjoyed. The male students wanted assurances that they could compete and find financial security in their career. The students valued support they found in a variety of forms and were disappointed in the lack of support found in advising sessions. Students struggled with inadequate study skills to meet demanding course expectations. This research identified factors in the culture of undergraduate computer science education that impacted students' decisions to persist, or not persist, in the field. The results indicate changes and provide a basis for the design of interventions aimed at creating an environment that will equitably support all persons in pursuit of an undergraduate computer science degree.
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