How do students talk about intelligence? An Investigation of Motivation, Self-efficacy, and Mindsets in Computer Science

Jamie Gorson, Eleanor Mary O'Rourke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Undergraduate programs in computer science (CS) face high dropout rates, and many students struggle while learning to program. Studies show that perceived programming ability is a significant factor in students’ decision to major in CS. Fortunately, psychology research shows that promoting the growth mindset, or the belief that intelligence grows with effort, can improve student persistence and performance. However, mindset interventions have been less successful in CS than in other domains. We conducted a small-scale interview study to explore how CS students talk about their intelligence, mindsets, and programming behaviors. We found that students’ mindsets rarely aligned with definitions in the literature; some present mindsets that combine fixed and growth attributes, while others behave in ways that do not align with their mindsets. We also found that students frequently evaluate their self-efficacy by appraising their programming intelligence, using surprising criteria like typing speed and ease of debugging to measure ability. We conducted a survey study with 103 students to explore these self-assessment criteria further, and found that students use varying and conflicting criteria to evaluate intelligence in CS. We believe the criteria that students choose may interact with mindsets and impact their motivation and approach to programming, which could help explain the limited success of mindset interventions in CS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationICER 2019 - Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Pages21-29
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781450361859
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 30 2019
Event15th Annual International Computing Education Research Conference, ICER 2019 - Toronto, Canada
Duration: Aug 12 2019Aug 14 2019

Publication series

NameICER 2019 - Proceedings of the 2019 ACM Conference on International Computing Education Research

Conference

Conference15th Annual International Computing Education Research Conference, ICER 2019
CountryCanada
CityToronto
Period8/12/198/14/19

Keywords

  • Growth Mindset
  • Motivation
  • Qualitative methods
  • Self-efficacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Education
  • Theoretical Computer Science

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