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Equity Part II: The Multiple Dimensions of Implementing Equity

In a previous blog entry, I argued that we should address equity in computer science from a civil rights perspective, considering the importance of computing to all social and academic endeavors in the 21st century. I argued that rather than an economic framing; we need to address equity for what it is: an equal opportunity to fully participate in educational and social systems in our society. This, not future jobs, is the imperative to center equity in discussions around computer science education. In this blog, I will discuss what equity looks like within this social justice framework.

1. Availability of Courses for All Students in All Schools: Until computing courses are universally available in schools, severe equity issues will be pervasive. Bluntly put, without courses in the schools, students cannot easily access this content knowledge. With many schools in the U.S. being highly segregated by race and social class, data has shown that more affluent, White schools are much more likely to offer computing courses to students. A fundamental step towards making computer science more accessible is to build courses at all schools, so any interested student is able to learn about computing. I am not advocating that computing be required of all students, but instead, be available for any student who desires to access this critical 21st century knowledge, regardless of whether the student is college-bound or not.
2. Curriculum and Assessment must be tailored towards students in meaningful ways. The "one size fits all" approach to computing, for generations, has marginalized students of color and females. We cannot simply bring underrepresented students into "traditional" classroom spaces and expect them to engage in a curricular model that has typically captivated the intrests of only a small sample of the population. Instead, curricular resources need to be created to reach the interests and prior knowledge of particular minority communities and girls. This type of resources could include materials such as Ron Eglash's culturally situated design tools to showcase the cultural dimensions of computing. A second approach would be to include project-based curriculum that encourages students to draw from their own community knowledge to examine social and environmental issues through a computing perspective. Curriculum and assessment must be carefully developed to highlight the multiple ways of knowing , and showing, students bring to classrooms.
3. Teachers must be supported in developing an inclusive pedagogy that is effective for engaging girls and students of color. Moving towards an inquiry-based teaching strategy has been shown to be effective for reaching underrepresented students in computing and in other STEM disciplines. Having pre-service opportunities and professional development workshops that help communities of teachers sharing strategies for teaching underrepresented students, English language learners, etc. is critical in developing these pedagogical skills.

These three elements are part of a cohesive whole, and must be tackled together. If particular organizations, universities, schools, or industries are firmly committed to working towards equity in computer science education, the action plans must address all three of these dimensions in an integrated method to make real change.

Or, perhaps there are more dimensions? What other dimensions might people consider when working on equity issues in K-12 computer science education?

Joanna Goode
CSTA Equity Committee Chair


i dont understand what you want to teach us?

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