That groups other than white or Asian males are not well-represented in education or professions related with computer science is well documented. Research shows that popularly-held notions accounting for this are inaccurate or simply false. Instead, persistent expression of biased social values is asserted to account for the fact that members of underrepresented groups either never choose to pursue or cease pursuit of careers in computer science.
Regardless, private and public interest in attaining equity and social justice remains strong. Often, efforts are focused on top-down initiatives to attract and retain a more diverse set of individuals. However, these have shown limited success in changing the demographics in computer science. With support from industry, our transformation of the undergraduate computer science curriculum aims to change the culture from the bottom-up, with support from the top and the middle.
Our interventions are built around a `Foundational Values` course for first-year students, where examples of bias in interpersonal and corporate interactions and in products created by professionals are analyzed through team activities guided by rubrics based on the social-justice theories of John Rawls. The product is both (a) a set of social-contract statements identifying personal and organizational responsibilities addressing issues in each case, and (b) practice in developing social and intellectual habits for addressing similar issues. These rubrics and activities are also included in subsequent courses.
By beginning the computer-science curriculum with a course that guides students to address such issues, we aim to help students change the culture starting from the bottom-up. By diffusing these interventions through the curriculum we aim to help students develop broader understanding of what constitutes bias in professional and social life, and intellectual habits and skills to address it in a systematic way.
In our paper, we will describe development of interventions, and present early data documenting effects.
© 2018, American Society for Engineering Education, Proceedings of ASEE Annual Conference, Crystal City, Virginia.
Winiecki, Donald; Salzman, Noah; Andersen, Timothy; Jain, Amit; and Xu, Dianxiang. (2018). "Infusing Inclusion, Diversity, and Social Justice into the Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum at Boise State University". CoNECD 2018: Collaborative Network for Engineering and Computing Diversity Conference, 21436-1 - 21436-21.