Encouraging Diversity in Computer Science among Young People: Using a Games Design Intervention based on an Integrated Pedagogical Framework

Itoro Emembolu, Rebecca Strachan, Opeyemi Dele-Ajayi, Carol Davenport, Joe Shimwell

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingOther chapter contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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This research to practice full paper presents the results from using a games design intervention to encourage diversity in the uptake of computer science by young people, explore stereotypes with them and increase their awareness of careers in the sector. The intervention is based on an integrated pedagogical framework appropriate for use with primary age school children (age 7 - 11 years). Despite the increasing use of technology, the percentage of young people taking up a computer science education-career path remains stubbornly low in the UK and across a number of other countries, particularly for females and those from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Previous research suggests that games can be used to generate interest and engage young people with computer science. Other studies advocate targeting young people at an earlier age (7 years or below) and sustaining engagement throughout their education to widen participation in a particular sector. In this intervention, young people designed and developed individual games through a three stage process: design and story development; game building; testing and evaluation. This research adopts elements from two pedagogical learning theories Direct Instruction and Cognitive Constructivism to create an integrated pedagogical framework to support the game creation process and enable effective learning. This provides an approach that can cater for a range of participants' abilities along the novice-expert spectrum and provide an engaging and age appropriate educational experience.The intervention was completed in two cycles: cycle 1 consisted of a series of workshop sessions with 20 young people aged 9-10 years over a period of 5 weeks; and cycle 2 was a single session with 19 young people aged 7-11 years. A quasi-experimental approach was adopted for evaluating the intervention using the following instruments; pre and post questionnaires, planning sheets, the games created by the participants and a set of already developed engagement factors. Results show an increase from 5% to 25% in participants' aspiration towards a computer science career. 45% of the young people also knew more careers in the game industry post-intervention. Girls chose a variety of diversity in their lead characters while boys chose mainly male human lead characters in the games that they designed. Participants' evaluation of each other's games using the engagement factors showed girls were more interested in receiving feedback than boys. This paper highlights the effectiveness of combining different learning approaches to provide an age appropriate intervention. It also presents evidence on the positive effect of using games in the classroom to explore stereotypes, and learn about, and encourage career choices in computer science.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2019 IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference (FIE)
Subtitle of host publicationOctober 16-19, 2019 Cincinnati, Ohio; proceedings
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)9781728117461
ISBN (Print)9781728117478
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019
Event49th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference: Bridging Education to the Future - Northern Kentucky Convention Center, Cincinatti, United States
Duration: 16 Oct 201919 Oct 2019


Conference49th Annual Frontiers in Education Conference
Abbreviated titleFIE 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
Internet address


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