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Investigating High School Students’ Computing Beliefs

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

High School Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.813.1 - 15.813.14



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Paper Authors

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Daniel Heersink Colorado School of Mines

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Wanda Dann Carnegie Mellon University

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Barbara Moskal Colorado School of Mines

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Alka Herriger Purdue

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Steven Cooper Purdue

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Investigating High School Students’ Computing Beliefs Abstract

Many projects throughout the United States are underway that seek to increase the appeal of computing as a field of study. This article reports the results of pre and post attitudes surveys which were administered before and after two interventions. One of the interventions was designed to change students’ attitudes with respect to computer science and the other with respect to information technology. The two attitude surveys, as well as the interventions, differed primarily in the focus on computer science or information technology. Based on prior research using a factor analysis, the computer science survey successfully measures five constructs: confidence, interest, gender, usefulness, and professional stereotypes. Although the information technology instrument was designed to measure these same constructs, a factor analysis supports that this instrument measures a gender and general category construct, possibly indicating that students have a limited understanding of the field of information technology. The results from the current study indicate that for high school students, male attitudes were more strongly impacted by the computer science intervention whereas female attitudes were more strongly impacted by the information technology intervention.


Current high school students grew up with technology and video games and through these experiences have come to know computing as fast-paced and exciting. Yet, their first programming experiences in either high school or college are often tedious and boring.10,19,22,28 As young children, students learn to use the computer for entertainment with little exposure to the broader applications. Studies have found that many students lack confidence in their basic programming skills21,22 and that the bust has had a negative impact on students’ perceptions of the field and of professionals in the field. These factors are credited for the gradual decline in the number of students who are pursuing computer science degrees in the United States over the last eight years. 7, 9, 12, 26, 27

Yet, the employment demand for science and technology majors is increasing. Many studies7,9,12,37 have been designed that seek to acquire a better understanding of the cause of these declines, especially with respect to female students.20, 31,32, 33, 35, 36 Women are severely underrepresented in computing29, representing only 20% of computer science bachelor’s degrees awarded across the nation in 2006.25 Several qualitative investigations have focused on gender differences that may influence enrollment in computer science classes and in computing related degree programs.3,4,23,30 High school girls, in particular, have identified the following reasons for their lack of interest in computing: i.) lack of female role models, ii.) limited or no knowledge of the applications of computing, iii.) interests in things other than computers, and iv.) a negative perception of computing as “nerdy”.18 The broader population of students has expanded this list to include: i.) a perception that the number of jobs in computing is decreasing, ii.) a general lack of familiarity with computing fields and iii.) incorrect perceptions that computing professionals spend the majority of their time programming and rarely use computing in problem solving.5

Heersink, D., & Dann, W., & Moskal, B., & Herriger, A., & Cooper, S. (2010, June), Investigating High School Students’ Computing Beliefs Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15692

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