In Midst of Employment Pipeline Shortage, New Study Determines Mechanism for Boosting Student Interest In Computer Science

May 22, 2019

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that there will be nearly 350,000 computing-related job openings through 2026, with only approximately 60,000 graduates to fill those jobs. This drastic gap raises the important question of how to increase students’ interest in the field of computer science.

hoyt-lawson-inlineTwo University of Richmond professors, along with four researchers from other institutions, determined in a recent study that students’ interest in computer science can be influenced using low-cost, online interventions. 

Working with nearly 500 students in introductory computer science courses across seven universities, the study found that students’ interest in computer science increased when the course was paired with four short, low-cost, online modules aimed at reinforcing the idea that anyone can learn computer science.

“Individuals with a growth mindset believe that human attributes are not fixed, but rather can be cultivated through hard work, good strategies, and support from others,” said leadership studies and psychology professor Crystal Hoyt, who co-authored the study. “We found that students who participated in our online modules reinforcing growth mindset concepts were more interested in computer science than those who did not receive this intervention.” 

The study also found that the growth mindset intervention led students to value the field of computer science in terms of increased feelings of belonging and enjoyment. Survey results revealed that students’ value of computer science correlated with their final grade in the class. 

“The field of computer science now touches practically every discipline,” said Barry Lawson, professor of computer science and study co-author. “It is imperative that we identify ways to increase students’ interest and persistence in computer science, particularly those from traditionally underrepresented groups, to better address these employment pipeline opportunities, and this study serves as a first step.”

The work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant and aims to catalyze future research as well as provide practitioners concerned with increasing student interest in the field of computer science a potential avenue to pursue by promoting growth mindsets.

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