Using Quantitative Ethnography and Customized Virtual Role Models to Measure and Improve the Computing Identity of Young Girls
Effective Years: 2023-2026
Emerging technology poses potential benefit to all Americans. Technologies support innovations in many fields, including agriculture, electronics, transportation, data science and computing. The workforce that forms the engine for this growth must first receive education and training to understand and master the advanced STEM methods that form the foundation of technological growth. That workforce includes educators with knowledge in STEM and in learning sciences to engage and prepare students, some from diverse cultures, who could be candidates to enter these fields. Too often STEM fields lack diverse mentors and role models. Many women and minorities do not see themselves following the pathways of technological discovery if they have not seen technologists who look like them crafting innovations. This project will address developing strategies to reach youth, especially underrepresented youth, with opportunities and diverse role models to motivate them to pursue STEM career paths in computing and technology. This project through the University of Delaware will work to increase the participation of middle-school girls who pursue computing career paths, particularly those from underrepresented or marginalized groups. The project is connected to ongoing studies on underrepresentation in computing and associated emerging technologies, and integrates frameworks, such as personal and group identity formation, embodied virtual agents, human-computer interaction, and motivation. A team of five mentors-advisors is included in this plan, they will guide the research project and mentor the Principal Investigator. The project includes professional development activity that will increase the STEM education research capabilities of the Principal Investigator, including improving skills and understanding in role model theory, qualitative methods, quantitative ethnography and epistemic network analysis, and grounded and embodied cognition and theories. An intervention will be developed to reverse damaging stereotypes and improve the motivation and identity of underrepresented students for computing and technology careers. The contextualized interactions with virtual role models, supported by mentoring, are intended to enhance student experiences, and improve motivation.
Anticipated outcomes include increased participation in entering computing careers by those currently underrepresented, outreach for public showcases, and undergraduate and graduate student learning opportunities. Dissemination of project results through conferences in computer science and engineering education, learning sciences, and data science, and publication in scholarly journals, should benefit researchers and educators. Reports using de-identified data will be shared on the project website allowing appropriate use of the computing identity guidelines. This project is supported through a partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Schmidt Futures, and the Walton Family Foundation. This project is also supported by NSF's EDU Core Research Building Capacity in STEM Education Research (ECR: BCSER) program, which is designed to build investigators' capacity to carry out high-quality STEM education research in the core areas of STEM learning and learning environments, broadening participation in STEM fields, and STEM workforce development.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.