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Successful female students in undergraduate Computer Science and Computer Engineering: Motivation, self-regulation, and qualitative characteristics

Melissa Patterson Hazley, University of Nebraska - Lincoln

Abstract

Computer Science (CS) and Computer Engineering (CE) fields typically have not been successful at recruiting or retaining women students. Research indicates several reasons for this shortage but mainly from three perspectives: social issues, exposure/prior knowledge and curriculum issues in K-12 settings. This mixed-methods research addresses a gap in the literature by investigating the motivation and self-regulation behaviors of successful female students who are studying computer science and computer engineering. The findings in phase one of this study indicated that learning and performance approach goals predicted adaptive strategic self-regulation behaviors including strategy use, knowledge building and engagement. Learning avoidance goals predicted lack of regulation. Task approach goals predicted knowledge building and engagement (each negatively) and task avoid goals predicted strategy use, knowledge building and engagement (each negatively). Engagement positively predicted course grades while lack of regulation negatively predicted course grades. Learning avoidance had a significant negative indirect effect on course grades through lack of regulation. Learning approach was associated with better regulation (i.e., lower lack of regulation) and higher grades. Performance approach had a significant positive indirect effect on course grades through engagement. Performance avoidance had a significant negative indirect effect on course grades through lack of regulation. Task avoidance had a significant negative indirect effect on course grades through engagement. Task approach, contrary to the hypothesized direct of effect, had a significant negative indirect effect on course grades through engagement.^ Four themes emerged during the qualitative phase of this study. These included: The Gender Effect (students gender impacted their behavior and confidence), Lack of CS & CE experience (students’ prior knowledge impacted how they studied and how competent they felt), Key Influences (students were influenced by the work and academic environment, family members, classmates and professors) and Problem Solvers (students responded to the rigor of the program by being aggressive problem solvers). This research has implications for how we can support other female students who have the potential or desire to excel in computing fields. K-12 school systems and undergraduate programs should take steps to create intentional programming that introduce, educate and help female students persist in computer science and computer engineering programs. Educators and parents should engage female students in math and science coursework and extracurricular activities early in life, especially where formal CS or CE programs do not exist.^

Subject Area

Computer engineering|Educational psychology|Computer science

Recommended Citation

Patterson Hazley, Melissa, "Successful female students in undergraduate Computer Science and Computer Engineering: Motivation, self-regulation, and qualitative characteristics" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI10106174.
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/dissertations/AAI10106174

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