Classes that break stereotypes of who belongs in computer science.
The university’s amazing progress is due in part to Computer Science Lecturer, David J. Malan. Malan teaches CS50, the notoriously difficult introductory computer science course. The Harvard Crimson writes that the marked increase in females choosing to major in Computer Science has correlated strongly with increased enrollment in this introductory course. Students in the class report that the course teaches them computer science in an accessible, fun, and entertaining way.
What in particular makes Malan such a good role model? One factor that our research suggests is important is that Malan does not fit the stereotype of a computer science ‘nerd.’ This professor worked part-time as a forensic investigator throughout graduate school while volunteering as an EMT, a passion he still pursues today.
When considering how to best overcome stereotypes that discourage women from entering computer science, it is important to remember that commonly held assumptions, such as who makes the best role model, can get in the way of progress. Relying less on these assumptions and more on evidence provided in the classroom and in the lab (i.e. focusing more on the stereotypicality of role models) could lead to a nation-wide increase in the number of female computer science majors.
Interested in seeing Malan’s teaching style? Check out a video of CS50 through OpenCourseware at:
What do you think? Do you know of other male role models? Are there times in which a female role model might be better for recruiting women?
Posted by: Caitlin