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Research Contract: Understanding Australia’s Teaching Culture with Respect to Gender Diversity, Google Australia, $26,764 (2017)

Our collaborative research project with the Department of Gender Studies and Social Sciences explores how we can better understand the issue of gender diversity in Computer Science, and how we can make changes in our educational environments to approach more equal representation.  In our work so far, we have explored perceptions of academic staff in terms of their experiences moving through the education system and key influences on their decision to study and to continue in Computer Science. In this project, we are establishing a benchmark of current practices within secondary schools in support of engaging young women in Computer Science (and more broadly, STEM).

C. Szabo, K. Falkner, A. Szorenyi and D. Michell, Understanding Australia’s Teaching Culture with Respect to Gender Diversity, Google Australia, $26,764 (2017).

The underrepresentation of women in Computer Science (CS) remains a crucial problem despite significant efforts by both industry and academia to redress the issue. What is still missing is a clear understanding of the precise, practical actions that can be taken to improve the current situation, and an overview of existing efforts. The lack of an overview of what is currently being done causes duplication of efforts in some cases, a repeat of past mistakes, as well as the concentration of efforts in some places, at the expense of others. For example, outreach activities undertaken by University and Industry bodies often focus on the same subset of secondary or primary schools, or identified ‘catchment areas’, while other regions struggle to identify outreach partners and opportunities. These problems are the result of a lack of overall information and a lack of awareness of activity at a national level.

This project will conduct a survey which will provide a broad understanding of culture, perceptions of equity and engagement approaches within the Australian teaching community. The survey will aim to collect broad, quantitative and qualitative data on three aspects of CS teaching in secondary schools: 1. Whether gender (and other forms of) diversity in teaching are perceived as an issue by teachers; a. If so, what teachers do to foster inclusion 2. What curriculum, policies and resources are currently in place in schools to support CS teaching and learning in a diverse classroom; 3. Whether teachers believe the current resourcing to support diversity initiatives is adequate and if not, what more is needed.

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