Engaging Girls in Computer Science: Do Single-Gender Interdisciplinary Classes Help?
Computing-driven innovation cannot reach its full potential if only a fraction of the population is involved. Without girls and their non-stereotypical contribution, the innovation potential is severely limited. In computer science (CS) and software engineering (SE), the gender gap persists without any positive trend. Many girls find it challenging to identify with the subject of CS. However, we can capitalise on their interests and create environments for girls through interdisciplinary subcultures to spark and foster enthusiasm for CS. This paper presents and discusses the results of an intervention in which we applied a novel interdisciplinary online course in data science to get girls excited about CS and programming by contributing to the grand goal of solving colony collapse disorder from biology and geoecology. The results show the potential of such programs to get girls excited about programming, but also important implications in terms of the learning environment. The startling results show that girls from single-gender classes (SGCs) are significantly more open to CS-related topics and that the intervention evoked significantly more positive feelings in them than in girls from mixed-gender classes (MGCs). The findings highlight the importance of how CS-related topics are introduced in school and the crucial impact of the learning environment to meet the requirements of truly gender-inclusive education.