Sampling the error: research into underrepresented groups in computing

Clear, Tony
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ICER 2011

There has been considerable handwringing over time about the unbalanced proportions of women and ‘minority’ students in computing courses. Unfortunately CS Education researchers do not find themselves in a strong position to investigate these issues or effectively address them. Research designs that investigate the performance and retention of underrepresented students in Computing classes are already working with an unrepresentative group – those who have chosen to be there! Not only do such studies typically suffer from small numbers and difficulties with drawing soundly based statistical conclusions, but even qualitative studies can make few claims to generalisability. Speaking statistically the sampling strategy needs to identify the absent population of underrepresented students and investigate them, rather than merely “sampling the error” of those present in computing classes.

In a recent analysis aimed at determining the equity impacts on Maori and Pasifika students of changing the computing degree entry criteria at Auckland University of Technology (AUT), a disturbing set of figures were identified. In many respects the patterns echoed those found by Margolis and colleagues (2008) investigating the experiences at high school in Los Angeles of Black and Hispanic students. Determining effective counter measures to such entrenched patterns of discrimination is difficult for a university at the end of such a chain. Currently the Design and Creative Technologies Faculty at AUT, (which has an espoused commitment to becoming the University of choice for Maori and Pasifika students) is beginning to design an intervention strategy. This talk will touch on some of the issues identified and seek input to an effective, research-based design for change

Seventh International Computing Education Research Workshop (ICER 2011), Providence Rhode Island, Lightning Talks Abstracts, pp.2
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