Changing student perceptions of information technology careers: investigating the use of a tech-savvy career-focussed curriculum for it career development with regional junior high school students

PhD Thesis


Genrich, Rohan L.. 2020. Changing student perceptions of information technology careers: investigating the use of a tech-savvy career-focussed curriculum for it career development with regional junior high school students. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland. https://doi.org/10.26192/rzdf-t892
Title

Changing student perceptions of information technology careers: investigating the use of a tech-savvy career-focussed curriculum for it career development with regional junior high school students

TypePhD Thesis
Authors
AuthorGenrich, Rohan L.
SupervisorToleman, Mark
Roberts, Dave
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages324
Year2020
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.26192/rzdf-t892
Abstract

The number of students enrolling in secondary Information Technology (IT) subjects within Queensland has shown a significant decline since the year 2000. Tertiary institutions have also experienced a significant decline in domestic enrolments in Australia. The decreases in student participation, as well as students’ interest in considering IT careers, have reached a point where serious IT skills shortages have been forecast in Australia. According to Deloitte Access Economics and the Australian Computer Society, demand for IT workers is expected to grow by 100,000 by 2023. This will further strain Australian businesses trying to recruit IT workers to meet this demand.

All schools teaching foundation to year ten follow the Australian Curriculum developed by the Australian Federal Government and endorsed by each State. The Australian Curriculum Digital Technologies learning area focuses on problem-solving, often using coding. There appears to be a perception drawn from the current curriculum that IT equates to coding. The Digital Technologies learning area does not cover any specific content on IT careers. The Australian Curriculum of Mathematics and Science learning areas also demonstrate a lack of specific careers content. Providing students with specific knowledge about careers in these learning areas appears to be a current omission.

This thesis examines the factors influencing student perceptions affecting their choices of studying high school IT subjects and their consideration of an IT career. Factors from the literature align as social or structural. Social factors, especially gender and family, have been the focus of the majority of the research in this field. This research focuses on the structural factors (curriculum and teachers) due to the strong influence of these factors on student decision making about course selection related to IT subjects. Circumscription, Compromise, and Self-creation Theory is used to identify the developmental stage in a student’s life, where structural changes may have the most significant impact on perceptions of IT careers. Social Cognitive Career Theory is also used to highlight the importance of a student’s self-efficacy on influencing a student’s interests and career choice goals.

The study examined the structural factors of curriculum change and teacher preparation for improving student perception about IT subject selection and IT careers. This was tested through the development of an IT curriculum using tech-savvy web-based teaching tools, focussing on developing a student’s understanding of the depth and breadth of IT careers. This study involved implementing the IT Careers Curriculum at four schools in the Toowoomba region.

An Information Technology Careers Instrument (ITCI) was developed as part of the study to measure the change in students’ perceptions of IT careers. All the IT classes at all four schools were surveyed before and after the implementation of the IT careers curriculum. The impact of the IT Careers Curriculum was also qualitatively measured through student focus groups and teacher interviews. The researcher participated directly by teaching the IT Careers Curriculum at one of the schools, and a self-reflection was undertaken of the IT Careers Curriculum during this time.

The quantitative data collected from the two surveys, before and after the students had undertaken the IT Careers Curriculum used Repeated Measures Analysis of Variance of the Pre and Post Test ITCI Means. The results of this analysis showed no significant improvement in student perceptions towards IT careers as a result of the IT Careers Curriculum. The qualitative data collected through focus groups of students and interviews with the teachers involved in the IT Careers Curriculum indicated a different result. The student focus groups and the teacher interviews indicated that the students’ awareness and interest in IT careers had increased after undertaking the IT Careers Curriculum. This strong qualitative finding supported the key research question and provided a counterbalance to the quantitative findings. Reasons for this difference in results are discussed, as are implications for future research in this area.

This research has provided a fresh examination of Circumscription, Compromise and Self-creation Theory, and Social Cognitive Career Theory and the research into structural factors that influence student perceptions towards IT study and career choices. It is believed that this research assists researchers and policymakers to better understand the factors that influence students’ IT study and career choices, and informs educational practitioners when developing programs aimed at increasing students’ involvement in IT education and vocational pathways, by providing better awareness of the range of IT careers available beyond programming and technical support.

Keywordsinformation, technology, careers, perceptions, education
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020390306. Secondary education
460906. Information systems education
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Management and Enterprise
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