IGaDtools4MINT - Gender and Diversity Mainstreaming Framework for Computer Science Study ProgramsCopyright: © GDI, RWTH Aachen University
Despite extensive research, following pilot projects and support programs in the so called STEM fields, that is Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, to increase the women-rate and lower the dropout-rate in these fields, the women-rate in these fields remains static. Keeping that in mind the project IGaDtools4MINT has the goal to develop a master plan based on current research and analysis to increase the women-rate in the STEM fields to a sustainable level.
In dependence on the famous university project of the American CMU, short for Carnegie Mellon University, RWTH Aachen University initiated a similar project. The CMU’s project started in the end of 1990’s in the fields of informatics and achieved a significant increase of the women-rate about 8 percent of the female first-year students in 1995 to 42 percent in the year 2000. This success is made possible through coherent package of measures which primary focus lies on genderaccurate teaching and a general opening of the subject culture.
One essential result of this enterprise is a gender- and diversity-toolkit which includes action guidelines and implementation strategies for universities to increase the rate of young women and other groups excluded by STEM fields leading to a potential paradigm shift in the STEM fields.
The project is based on a diversity-approach which primary considers the gender category but in doing so it understands the groups of women and men as nonhomogenic. The project rather focuses on the diversity in these gender groups which are based on other categories of differences. Concerning the university context social origin and ethnical membership is of special meaning.
The approach of the project at hand is separated into the following seven researchand implementation-phases:
- Analysis of projects and technical literature in the fields of "Integration of Gender in STEM fields".
- Screening Computer Sciene at RWTH Aachen including all its status groups.
- Conception-phase of action-focused instruments to create gender-fairness in any field of study.
- Use of the developed instruments to establish gender-fairness in the fields of informatics at RWTH Aachen.
- Investigation and analysis of the realized measures in reference to target achievement (Post-Screening) as well as presenting recent results on a symposium with representatives of the TU9-Universities.
- Conclusive evaluation and conception of a transfer plan to other fields of study and universities
- Implementation of the transfer plan at the TU9-University Berlin with the perspective of a successive transference of this plan to other TU9-Universities as well as a conclusive conference in Berlin.
Literature analysis was realized in form of systematic search of regional, german as well as international topic centered literature data banks and library catalogues which cover nearly the entire literature offer. Before that a key word catalogue has been created from which the specific research theme terms have been deduced. In order to integrate international research contributions into the literature analysis the literature search has taken place in german - as well as in english literature data banks.
During the screening-phase the collected indicators served as the substructure of all evaluation instruments. The indicators also served as a point of reference to evaluate whether they are addressed by the field of informatics at RWTH Aachen University. The results of the screening-phase indicated in which fields measures can be realized and implemented.
Based on the research conducted at RWTH Aachen University there has been developed a promotion concept which is described in four phases below:
Phase One: Student Lab
One very important target of "InfoSphere" - the Students Lab of Computer Science- is to communicate a realistic view of what you are doing in informatics to prevent students from dropping out. Besides the connection and cooperation between schools and universities has been invigorated.
Phase Two: Pre-course Computer Science
Pre-courses in informatics have primary the function to lighten the introduction into university life for the students who often tend to feel overwhelmed by the transition between school and university life. Based on positive and motivational experiences the feeling of being overwhelmed should be antagonized and also the interest in informatics should be determined by these experiences. Additionally all the students will be brought to a mainly consistent state of knowledge.
Phase Three: Fields of Action in the First Semesters
The conception of measures on this level is referred to the structure of the basic lectures in the first two semesters. During these basic lectures content is picked up, connected interdisciplinary and placed into a practical application-context. The lectures continue where the pre-courses stopped and completes thereby a constant advancement during the initial study phase.
Phase Four: Stabilization of Gender- and Diversity-Aspects Among University Teaching
The focus of this phase lies on the lecturers. By teaching gender- and diversity expertise a consciousness referring to improvement and points of knotting in these areas should be established. In the long term by doing so gender- and diversity-aspects should be integrated into informatics.
The experiences gathered at RWTH Aachen University were transferred as far as possible to TU Berlin during the final step of the project. We tried to find out which geologically independent elements can be transferred to other universities to serve a sustainable increase of female students and other underrepresented student groups among informatics. Also there can be differences from university to university within the culture of one subject which could have influences and other requirements on the measures established during this project. On the one hand during project phases 6 and 7 a transfer of the projects’ results has been conceptualized and realized at TU Berlin. On the other hand based on these experiences a transfer concept referring to the transference of the developed toolkits to other fields of study and universities has been established.
The overall evaluation of the results conducted during the project "IGaDtools4MINT" turns out to be very positive. The established toolkit of measures successfully provides a stronger opening of informatics studies as well as other STEM fields and a general improvement of gender- and diversity-fairness in these areas.
The core of the projects’ structure concerning development and implementation processes guarantees high quality and fitting accuracy among the established toolkit measures which have been modified and constantly improved at the evaluation phases at RWTH Aachen University as also at TU Berlin. Constant evaluation and adaption of the measurements guarantees its high quality standard. In so far the process of advancement is never truly finished. Especially at the point of transferring those measures to further universities there must be an individual adaption of the measurements depending on the specific site-related groups of interests and structural requirements.
This is often verified by practical experiences. The measurements of the toolkit taken place at RWTH Aachen University and TU Berlin have been evaluated as being good or even very good by the interviewed students, see the description of measurements in the conclusive publication "Informatikkultur neu denken". In so far the measurements of the developed toolkit lower the students drop out rate as well as serving a general opening of the informatics culture concerning female and other students. Because of that the toolkit can be seen as a promising one.
One essential characteristic of the toolkits’ success is on the one hand the high application orientation by which the subjects’ content is communicated to the students. For example the modules of the students labor concerning a diversity of themes, like "das Haus der Zukunft", enables a very playful access to the different exercises among informatics. On the other hand they offer a very plastic impression of the spectrum of application possibilities which takes into account the state of knowledge of the students.
Especially at the beginning of every studies these kinds of approaches seem reasonable and productive. During this initial phase the students develop a basic understanding of what informatics is, how diverse this field is and its range of use. These approaches are attracted to female students and other underrepresented groups of students but also to male students that are already addressed. Furthermore the drop out rate has been lowered by improving the process of bonding among the students during their first semesters.