Gender and educational background and their effect on computer self-efficacy and perceptions.

V.C. Galpin, I. Sanders, H. Turner, and B. Venter

Technical Report TR-Wits-CS-2003-0, School of Computer Science, University of the Witwatersrand, 2003.


This report describes research into gender and educational background and its relationship with computer self-efficacy and perceptions of Computer Science amongst university students and school students in South Africa. It is important to understand these issues in the specific cultural and economic environment of South Africa.

The main focus of this report is on self-efficacy which is defined as the beliefs an individual has about their ability to complete certain tasks. The Cassidy and Eachus scale is used to measure general computer self-efficacy, and course-specific self-efficacy was measured by statements describing achievement in the course.

Amongst first year Computer Science university students, male students had significantly higher self-efficacy than female students and predicted higher marks, but there was no difference in their actual marks.

Amongst secondary school students no significant gender differences were found in general computer self-efficacy. For boys, there was no link between plans to take computing at school and self-efficacy. For girls, those who had decided to take computing had higher self-efficacy.

Students with a disadvantaged educational background were found to have mixed self-efficacy beliefs. They had lower general computer self-efficacy than students with an advantaged educational background, and higher course-specific self-efficacy and mark prediction. However, their actual marks were lower.

Appendices to the report describe additional research. University students without prior experience of programming had lower self-efficacy, lower predicted marks and lower actual marks than those with prior programming experience. Women with no prior experience had particularly low general computer self-efficacy beliefs.

School students with higher usage of computers had higher self-efficacy. Boys had higher computer usage than girls. Boys perceived Computer Science as less male-oriented than girls. There was no link between perceptions of male-orientedness and plans to study computing at school.

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