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How Early Does the CS Gender Gap Emerge? A Study of Collaborative Problem Solving in 5th Grade Computer Science

Abstract

"Elementary computer science has gained increasing attention within the computer science education research community. We have only recently begun to explore the many unanswered questions about how young students learn computer science, how they interact with each other, and how their skill levels and backgrounds vary. One set of unanswered questions focuses on gender equality for young computer science learners. This paper examines how the gender composition of collaborative groups in elementary computer science relates to student achievement. We report on data collected from an in-school 5th grade computer science elective offered over four quarters in 2014-2015. We found a significant difference in the quality of artifacts produced by learner groups depending upon their gender composition, with groups of all female students performing significantly lower than other groups. Our analyses suggest important factors that are influential as these learners begin to solve computer science problems. This new evidence of gender disparities in computer science achievement as young as ten years of age highlights the importance of future study of these factors in order to provide effective, equitable computer science education to learners of all ages."

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