NSF study examines lack of women, minorities in IT field

December 10, 2001

ATHENS, Ohio - Though information technology workers are in high demand in today's job market, women and minorities seem to be steering clear of the field, a career decision Ohio University researchers suspect may be influenced by media messages people receive as early as middle school.

The researchers, funded by a $556,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, are examining this theory through a pilot study of more than 100 students at Mt. Logan Middle School in Chillicothe, Ohio, before widening the project to 12 other schools across the nation next year. Students will help the researchers collect data that may explain why women and minorities don't pursue the IT field. The project also will create a new curriculum to help teachers educate students about career choices and media messages.

The study, led by Ohio University's Phyllis Bernt, professor of communication systems management, and Joseph Bernt, professor of journalism, in the College of Communication and Sandra Turner, professor of educational studies in the College of Education, is part of a larger National Science Foundation effort to examine the growing need for computer programmers, network administrators, software designers and other related technology specialists.

"The industry needs more workers, but society is also losing out because a very important infrastructure is being developed by a small, non-representative group of people," said Phyllis Bernt.

According to recent studies, women account for only 20 percent of information technology workers; minorities account for less than 5 percent. The researchers suspect these groups are opting out of such high-tech fields as early as middle school, and that messages they receive from television, books, the Internet, movies and even career materials could be a factor. Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation has shown that middle school students are exposed to an average of eight hours and eight minutes of media per day, including television and the Internet.

"Kids learn from an early age that if something is in print, it's true. And today, if it's on the Internet, it's true," said Turner, who previously has studied why women don't pursue math careers. During the three-year study, the team will survey middle school media specialists and librarians nationwide to determine what type of media is available to students. Joseph Bernt will analyze the content of these magazines, books, Web sites and movies to determine what overt and hidden messages they may be conveying to pre-teens.

But a key element of the study calls for students to interview each other about media habits and conduct their own media analysis. This not only will aid the researchers in collecting data on what information young people are actually consuming, but will train the students to cast a critical eye on the media. "In doing a content analysis, they are also learning about stereotypes in the media and will be learning to read and view the media in a new way," said Joseph Bernt.

The three teachers at Mt. Logan Middle School in Chillicothe involved in the initial phase of the study say the hands-on nature of the project will help their students relate what they learn in the classroom to the real world.

"Part of my curriculum is teaching them real-life applications for what we're doing, so my students will be taking data, graphing it and making statements about what they find," said Nancy Arledge, a seventh-grade math teacher. Arledge and her colleagues - Martha Davis, who teaches language arts, and Debbie Elliott, who teaches science - agree that the project also will open the eyes of girls and minority students to other career possibilities.

"I have girls who tell me they'd like to be a vet, but all the math and science involved scares them away," said Elliott, who tells female students that with hard work, time and patience, they can reach their career goals.

The researchers expect to present preliminary data to career counselors in June and will post the experimental curriculum to a Web site for use by other teachers in September. Next fall, the team also will recruit 12 demographically diverse classrooms from around the country to participate in a full-scale version of the project. The researchers expect to distribute findings from the study to those in the education field, information technology industry and the media.
Contacts: At Ohio University:
Phyllis Bernt, 740-593-0020, bernt@ohio.edu
Joseph Bernt, 740-593-4118, berntj@ohio.edu
Sandra Turner, 740-593-9826, turners@ohio.edu.
At Mt. Logan Middle School: Nancy Arledge, Debbie Elliot and Martha Davis, 740-773-2638.

Ohio University

Related Teachers Articles from Brightsurf:

AI teachers must be effective and communicate well to be accepted, new study finds
The increase in online education has allowed a new type of teacher to emerge -- an artificial one.

Future teachers more likely to view black children as angry, even when they are not
A new study of prospective teachers finds that they are more likely to interpret the facial expressions of Black boys and girls as being angry, even when the children are not angry.

Prospective teachers misperceive Black children as angry
Prospective teachers appear more likely to misperceive Black children as angry than white children, which may undermine the education of Black youth, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association.

Children who have difficult relationships with their moms are clingy towards teachers
Children who experience 'dependent' or clingy relationships with their preschool teachers tend to also have difficulties in their relationships with their mothers finds researchers at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

Research finds teachers just as likely to have racial bias as non-teachers
Research released today challenges the notion that teachers might be uniquely equipped to instill positive racial attitudes in children or bring about racial justice, without additional support or training from schools.

Young teachers happier but say hard work is unrewarded
Newly qualified teachers report higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction compared to other graduates, but are more likely to say hard work in Britain is unrewarded, according to UCL research.

Robots can learn how to support teachers in class sessions
New research conducted at the University of Plymouth shows that a robot can be programmed to progressively learn autonomous behaviour from human demonstrations and guidance.

Preschool teachers ask children too many simple questions
When preschool teachers read books in their classrooms, the questions they ask play a key role in how much children learn, research has shown.

Teachers predict pupil success just as well as exam scores
New research from King's College London finds that teacher assessments are equally as reliable as standardised exams at predicting educational success.

Teachers and Trump
Teachers felt immense pressure from school leaders and families to respond in a certain way -- or not at all -- in their classrooms following the 2016 presidential election, according to new research from Michigan State University.

Read More: Teachers News and Teachers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.