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A New Challenge for Teachers: Encouraging Girls in Science, Math and IT Related Studies and Careers
One of the main challenges faced by educators is the importance of encouraging girls to excel in math, science and computing. As technology continues to dominate the business world, those struggling or generally disinterested in science and math will be left behind. In fact, that is exactly what is happening.
Although women make up about 50% of the general workforce in the United States, they make up only 9% of workers in the scientific and technical community. With such a low percentage of female interest, the government expects an increased labor shortage in the first decade of the 21st century for the information technology (IT) industry.
The main workers in the computer industry are computer engineers, systems analysts, programmers, and computer scientists, which includes database administrators, computer support personnel, and all other computer workers. These are all careers directly related to high school math and science, in addition to studying computer science.
Growth projections from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that the current graduation rate for undergraduates in computer science, information science, and technology programs is not high enough to support industry growth. . Additionally, they recognized that an even greater decrease in the number of women in the IT pipeline will have a profound effect on the industry.
These researchers believe that the low representation of women in computer science at the undergraduate level is inherited from the high school level, where girls participate less than boys in computer science courses and related activities. Although girls are often well represented in early computer science classes, they avoid advanced classes. One possible reason is the increased emphasis on technical and mathematical course requirements.
This brings us back to elementary and secondary math and science studies, and yet another growing concern within the scientific community.
We currently believe that our country’s future economic prosperity and global competitiveness depend on both scientific progress and our ability to adapt in science, technology and engineering. As our society transitions from a resource-intensive society to a knowledge-intensive economy, it is essential for all of us to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to contribute to this new community.
With that in mind, knowledge of math and science has now become essential for those seeking high-level, high-paying employment in our new, technologically advanced workforce.
Once again, the scientific community fears that industry growth in the early 21st century will far exceed that of graduates. Again, research has suggested that the root of this problem can be traced back to elementary and secondary school classrooms.
Returning to the classroom, a National Assessment of Educational Progress study found that girls score below the national average on all elements of science achievement and express negative attitudes towards science . The study acknowledged that societal, educational and personal factors all contribute to this funding, but highlighted that differences within the science classroom may be one of the major contributing factors.
So what are the factors that discourage girls from excelling in math, science and computer science in high school? Research has shown a number of different issues that need to be addressed. They believe that girls do not receive adequate information about career opportunities in science and their prerequisites, and that secondary school counselors often do not encourage them to pursue courses in mathematics and science. Additionally, texts, media, and many adults often project stereotypical views of science and scientists.
A lack of spatial skills development can also be a problem, which could be fostered in shop drawing and mechanical courses. Girls also have less experience with scientific activities and equipment, which are often stereotyped as masculine.
To encourage girls to continue their studies in mathematics and science, teachers are encouraged to maintain well-equipped, organized and perceptually stimulating classrooms, to use gender-neutral language and examples, to include information about women scientists and to focus on creative and basic skills and provide career information.
Additionally, math and science teachers should use labs, discussions, and weekly quizzes as primary modes of instruction or teaching strategies and supplement these activities with field trips and guest speakers. If possible, teachers should also encourage parental involvement.
Studies have also shown that male and female teachers who are successful in motivating girls to pursue science studies practice what is known as “guided intervention”. They asked girls to watch demonstrations, which required these students to perform, not just record, in labs and on science-related field trips.
When it comes to computer science studies, a similar approach can be taken. Although these studies involve mathematical, programming, and technical issues, computer science educators should be aware that working with computers involves much more than that. It also requires fully developed verbal and interpersonal skills – an area in which girls tend to excel.
In order to attract more girls into the study, teachers should focus on applications and not just math or programming. This is because girls are generally not as enthusiastic about computers for their gadget value as boys. Instead, girls become more interested and engaged when technology is discussed in terms of its usefulness for problem solving.
IT educators should also impress on girls the great need for women in the industry and provide them with more career options. For example, the jobs are not limited to programming; individuals are needed to help solve business problems with technological solutions. The industry itself is focused on solving problems and developing solutions to help businesses continue to grow.
By introducing science, math and computing in a positive way to girls at all levels of education, we may be able to reverse the trend and see more and more women choosing careers in these important fields. If we truly believe that children are our future, now is the time to ensure they have a place in the future we have created.
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