Computing skills, beliefs and identities in young people from underserved communities

Despite increasing access to computing curricula within schools, the number of young people from diverse backgrounds choosing computing qualifications and careers is still low. It is important to understand the reasons for this lack of engagement directly from young people in order to identify potential avenues for intervention. Furthermore, it is vital to consider these reasons within their specific educational and social contexts. This qualitative pilot study aimed to provide insight into how young people from underserved communities in the United Kingdom viewed computing and how it related to their current lives and future aspirations. We interviewed thirteen young people, aged 9-22, who were at risk of educational disadvantage. Thematic analyses identified a mismatch between a stereotyped computing identity and the identities or personal interests of the young people. Although they felt comfortable with using computers in general, the young people seemed to lack belief in their own ability, or to understate it, during the interviews. Future research should expand on these themes and take an intersectional approach to promote context-specific interventions and support to encourage a more diverse workforce in computer science.

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