The Teaching Approach intervention is based on the idea that current approaches to teaching computing may not be fully inclusive and so may be less appealing to girls. This research theme is made up of three main studies, all run by the Raspberry Pi Foundation:
Key stage 1: Storytelling (pilot study)
Evidence suggests that gender stereotypes develop early, and so early intervention may be key to keeping girls engaged in computing. In this small pilot study with primary schools, we explored how storytelling and story-writing can be an effective introduction to computing for pupils in Year 2 (aged 6 to 7).
Schools delivered the intervention between April and July 2021. They followed a series of 12 lesson plans with accompanying resources. The lessons introduced computing concepts such as sequencing and repetition and linked them to elements of stories such as structure, rhyme, and speech. Pupils were introduced to ScratchJr and used this tool to tell their own stories through code.
The intervention was a randomised control trial (RCT) and was evaluated as a pilot study. Some schools were in the ‘treatment’ group and used the intervention resources, while others were in the ‘control’ group and carried on with their usual arrangements for teaching computing. The evaluation was designed to explore whether the intervention had evidence of promise, in which case it could be worthwhile to scale it up for a larger trial.
“I think [the storytelling aspect] gives them something real to work through, so it’s not… abstract… I think through the storytelling, they’re able to make it as funny or whatever they want, and it’s also their own interest. [Female pupil], she dotes on animals, so she’s always having giraffes and all of that, so it’s something that they can make their own connections too… Yes, I did really like the storytelling.”
- A primary school teacher
What we learnt
From the trial itself:
- The intervention was found to be acceptable for pupils and feasible for teachers.
- The intervention has evidence of promise.
- The independent evaluators recommended proceeding to a full trial.
From teachers’ feedback about the trial:
- Some teachers suggested that the training could be shortened.
- Less experienced teachers highlighted the need to ensure that the training introduces teachers to all of the content covered in the lessons.
- More experienced teachers suggested allowing flexibility to skip some lessons based on the existing skills and knowledge of their classes.
From the implementation of the trial:
- For future trials, the recruitment team will need to review strategies to ensure that as many schools as possible stay engaged with the trial and complete it.
- For future trials, it was recommended that more testing of the surveys be carried out to ensure that pupils are able to complete the surveys on their own and that teachers feel that it is feasible to administer the surveys within existing time constraints.
Key stage 2 and key stage 3: Pair Programming and Peer Instruction
We are currently running two other randomised control trials (RCTs) with primary and secondary schools to assess the impact of using more collaborative, discursive teaching approaches than are often associated with computing. The two interventions are running with Years 4 and 6 (pupils aged 8 to 9, and 10 to 11), and with Year 8 (pupils aged 12 to 13). Teachers have undertaken training in the teaching approaches and are now delivering the lessons, with results due in the spring term.
Find out more about Gender Balance in Computing.