Mind the Gap. Barriers in Computational Social Sciences Education and How to Deal with Them.
1University of Warsaw, Poland; 2University of Groningen, University College, Groningen Center for Social Complexity Studies, Groningen, The Netherlands; 3The Alexander von Humboldt Institute of Internet and Society (HIIG), Berlin, Germany; 4National Information Processing Institute, Warsaw, Poland
In the current digital era, with an increasingly complex and turbulent society, demand is rising for social scientists capable of analysing behavioural dynamics. Studying behavioral dynamics is a valuable lense, both in public policy making and community planning, as in scientific projects on how human behaviour affects ecosystems.
Computational Social Science (CSS) answers this need for skills by offering a framework that connects a complex networked systems perspective with a suite of computational tools and methodologies. Despite its potential and fast growth, CSS is still hardly found in programs at bachelor and master levels in Europe. It seems that teaching social sciences students computational thinking seems to be lagging a bit behind.
In the presentation we would like to look at this discrepancy from the perspective of sociology of education and higher education researches. At the beginning, we will discuss why there is a need to develop computational education in the social sciences and why we have not been so successful in developing this kind of education. Our aim is to address the perception of CSS, students’ barriers in this field (e.g. mathematical and statistical anxiety, transition of gender inequalities in STEM education into differences in social sciences) and the perspective of academic teachers. Afterwards, we would like to present some ideas for tackling these challenges in frames of our Erasmus+ project “Action for Computational Thinking in Social Sciences” (ACTISS).
The Global Nature of STEM Education Increases Minority Students’ Readiness to Work with the Outgroup
Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel
What is it about STEM that brings people together? On the one hand, it could be that STEM education presents a multicultural and cooperative environment where diverse groups work together on shared problems and projects. On the other hand, it is arguable that the nature of science and STEM education creates a more ‘universal’ or global social context that is availing to equitable and positive interactions between groups. This paper investigates how minority groups’ willingness to integrate into a mixed work or study environment relates to whether they hold multicultural or universalist perceptions of STEM education. Multiple regression analyses are conducted on questionnaire data (N=246) collected from Arab-Palestinian high school students in Israel. Factor analysis is used to create latent variables that represent multicultural-cooperative and universalist-global perceptions of STEM. The analyses indicate no significant relationship, and in some cases, a negative relationship between multicultural and cooperative perceptions of STEM and willingness to integrate into a mixed environment. However, students’ perceptions of STEM as universal or global is strongly associated with willingness to integrate into a mixed environment. It is argued that in a context of high intergroup animosity, such as in Israel, a multicultural or cooperative space can in fact increase intergroup threat. Conversely, a global or universal space can reduce intergroup threats created by the national context. Therefore, and despite the broad support for multicultural approaches to STEM education, this paper presents a potential caveat for multicultural STEM education in contexts of conflict.
Opening a Space between Fields. How Actors in Politics, Industry, and Higher Education Shape an Emerging Field of Knowledge
University of Lucerne, Switzerland
This paper investigates the transformation of higher education regarding socio-technical processes of digitization and political demands for innovation, competitiveness, and economic growth. Specifically, I ask how actors in politics, industry, and higher education envision data science, an emerging field of knowledge at the intersection of various existing disciplines. Which categories and concepts are used to frame this space and to coordinate cooperation between the different actors involved?
To address these questions, I examine the introduction of data science at Swiss universities as a case study, using study programme descriptions, interviews with data science educators, policy documents, and economic reports to serve as empirical material. I show that the proclamation of “skills gaps” by business actors was readily taken up and transformed into research and higher education policy. The cultural framing of the “sexiness” of data science by industry further contributed to these efforts enabling students to envision themselves as future societal leaders. Political actors imagine data science mainly in reference to economic concepts and sociotechnical visions such as the “4th industrial revolution” or the “competitiveness” of the economy, thus outlining promising economic scenarios of the future that become possible through data science.
I argue that data science opens up an underdetermined “space between fields” (Eyal 2013) that allows participating actors to position themselves therein, but still remain attached to their primary field. Furthermore, it enables them to take multiple roles (as researchers, entrepreneurs, innovators etc.), but also to participate in the distribution of material and symbolic resources in this space. The reconfiguration of the relations between industry, universities, and the state may indicate a new governance of the higher education sector overall.
School Bus: A sociotechnical Analysis
University of Minho, Portugal
This communication seeks to present the results of a research made in Portugal, at the city of Braga, concerning the implementation of the school bus project. Climate change, health, security and quality of life are increasingly assumed as main challenges with which society must deal with. For societies that have invested in the massive use of cars, like it happens in Portugal, these challenges put singular queries and difficulties.The aims of reducing the use of fossil energies or adopt other forms of mobility must tackle with several barriers concerning both social and political constrains as well as the understandings about means of transportation. In Portugal, local municipalities are being involved in projects whose main aim is reducing the use of cars and other carbon-based means of transportation. One of the measures in implementation refers to the school bus project which consists in organizing a collective transportation of children to their schools, thus aliviating the trafic in city centres and reducing the times inside cars. On the basis of different theoretical aproches, this communication debates the results obtained in the study done in Braga city. This study involved participant observation and two surveys to parents and head of schools. Showing the still low use of the school bus, results demonstrate the need to comphreend school bus as a sociotechnical phenomena,thus allowing to reiterate the importance of the citizen partiticipation in science and technology projects, notably transportation.