Can Pair Programming Reduce the Gender Gap in Computing? A Study of Middle School Students Learning to Program


National Science Foundation


Jill Denner, & Shannon Campe (ETR), Linda Werner (UC Santa Cruz)


This study aims to understand the conditions under which pair programming can foster the kind of thinking and problem solving that will prepare middle school students to pursue and persist in computing fields. The design experiment involves 80 girls and boys from a range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds who are enrolled in game programming classes.

The classes are taught using a Toolkit developed over the last ten years as part of a collaboration between researchers and teachers. In-depth and multi-method data collection and analysis will be used to describe gender-based differences in student interactions, how interactions evolve over time, and the individual, relational, and institutional factors that play a role in the nature of those interactions. This study will contribute to an understanding of the conditions under which collaboration in middle school can address the gender gap in computing, as well as whether there are gender-based and cultural differences in interactions, and if they affect the kinds of thinking and problem solving needed to succeed in computing. It will also result in research-tested strategies and tools (a Toolkit) that educators can use to implement and strengthen pair programming in K-12 across a range of schools and locations.