Christina Björkman
Department of Computer Systems, Uppsala university


My main interest is in the area of gender issues within Computer Science Education. This includes for example learning styles, gender conscious teaching, definition of subject area, teaching methods, cultural issues etc.

Currently, I am not a doctoral student within this area (though a doctoral student in Computer Science, my subject has been Neural Networks), but I am looking at possibilites of changing research area to Computer Science Education, especially gender issues.

Below, I will describe a project that I am currently involved in, and a small project that I am planning for spring 1998.

Quantitative and qualitative changes to the gender structure of the Computer Science Program in Uppsala

This project started in 1996. The main goal of the project is to find explanations for the low number of female students attending the program, and to identify possible solutions to the problem. In doing this, we focus on the prevailing culture of the program, the norms and attitudes among students and faculty. We seek to establish how the male dominated computing culture affects both male and female students.

The first part of the project is a study of the program from a gender perspective. The study is based on questionnaires and in-depth interviews with students and graduated women. It has been carried out by two students in Psychology/Women's studies, as their Masters theses. The study is completed and the reports will hopefully soon be ready.

As a follow-on to this study we plan to survey the attituds among faculty.

In the second part of the project, the results from these studies will be analysed, in order to identify changes that should be made so as to increase women's participation in the program. Example on questions we plan to focus on:

  • What is a "female friendly" computing culture and education?
  • How should syllabus, classes, education and environment change to be more attractive to women and to promote equality?
  • How can we make female perspectives visible in the education?
  • How are teachers made aware of the importance of gender perspectives?
  • How can we strengthen the female students in their identity as computer scientists?
  • I will do most of the work in this part of the project.

    In the third part of the project, the changes determined in the second part will be implemented.

    The last part of the project will be an evaluation of the changes and the project. We plan to do this evaluation partly as a similar study as in the first part, in order to have comparable material.

    For part three, I have some funding from the University, and I am currently working to find funding for the rest of the project.

    Experiment with gender conscious teaching

    Within the framework of a nationwide project funded by the National Council for Higher Education, I have received funding for a small project planned for spring 1998.

    The experiment will be done within the first year course "Digital Logic and Computer Architecture". I taught this class for the first time spring 1997, and I will teach it in 1998.

    I have planned to do a survey among last years students in order to find out especially what changes female students suggest. Based on this and experience with gender conscious teaching from other universities and within other subjects, I will introduce changes to the course, and the way it is taught. A survey and interviews will be done with the students participating in the class, both before the class (to find out expectations) and after the class is finished. The questions I am interested in are whether changes made were positive for female students, and whether there exist any differences in the opinions between the male and the female group.

    One of the things I plan to do concerns the 5-6 "lessons" in the course (the class is broken into smaller groups for these lectures). I will have two special groups this year, one consisting of all the female students (around 10 students), and the other group will be the same size but with only male students. I will plan these "lessons" in the same way and observe whether the interaction in the classroom differs between the groups.

    Other project

    I am currently involved in the project "International student cooperation in project form", at the department.