June 14, 2015
June 14, 2015
June 17, 2015
Women in Engineering
26.1255.1 - 26.1255.9
Problem Based Learning as a Tool in Addressing Gender BiasAbstract –It was the hope and belief of the author that the gender bias in engineering andcomputer fields observed first-hand in the beginning of her career, over thirty years ago, wouldhave been eradicated long before 2014. However, an Implicit Association assignment addressingthe Gender Gap in multiple recent semesters of a Computer Ethics class produced results whichthe author found both surprising and disturbing in the biases reflected, and justified, by currentstudents. In addition to the Implicit Association results, which showed a larger strong associationof men with science than in the general population, the comments from the students were evenmore troubling. Student comments, cited anonymously to protect student privacy included,“Girls just aren’t interested in stuff like computers,” “Women’s brains can’t handle the advancedmath—it’s a right brain, left brain thing,” and “Women are better at nurturing than at technicalthings.” As a strategy in dealing with this, Problem Based Learning (PBL) was used as the basisof a more extensive, team-based project in the Spring 2014 iteration of the class. Problem BasedLearning is particularly applicable to problems which are complex and ill-posed—certainly anapt description of gender bias in STEM fields. The three-week assignment included apreliminary assessment, a group research project, an evaluation of team members, and a follow-up assessment to determine whether the project had changed any student attitudes. The teamproject required research including, but not limited to, demographics, government studies, socialscience studies, etc.; interviews with local businesses and women currently in technical fields;and relevant current events. While results from a single class in a single semester cannot provideany definitive results, and while group results were mixed, individual results appear promising.The paper will discuss specifics of the reasons for the PBL approach, a brief description of thecharacteristics of Problem Based Learning, details of the multi-part assignment, results from theSpring 2014 class, and proposed refinements for future iterations.
McCullough, C. L. (2015, June), Problem-based Learning as a Tool in Addressing Gender Bias Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24592
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