Earlier in September we attended the BERA (British Educational Research Association) conference , a huge event which brings together education researchers from across the UK and beyond. We were pleased to be able to share a poster on our current work on culturally relevant pedagogy. The poster shows the work we’ve done over a couple of projects in conjunction with some great teachers. 

Our current project is supported by Google, and takes the guidelines we developed in 2021 [1] into practice. We’ve been working with 10 schools in the south of England to find out how computing lessons can be adapted to be inclusive of all the learners in the school, and how computing lessons can reflect the diverse perspectives, interest and motivations of all our learners. Through our work we’ve identified nine opportunity areas in which schools and teachers might be able frame changes that they can make in computing and these are shown in our poster. These include adapting the content and the context in the lesson, encouraging more discussion activities, and using the learner’s perspective in planning lessons. 

Poster presented at BERA conference 2022 showing our work on culturally responsive computing teaching
Poster presented at BERA conference 2022

Culturally responsive teaching

Culturally Responsive Teaching (CRT) builds on the framework above to identify a range of teaching practices that can be implemented in the classroom. These include:

Kimberley Scott and colleagues developed Culturally Responsive Computing (CRC) to translate the tenets of culturally relevant pedagogy and culturally responsive teaching into a computing-specific theory [2,3]. CRC posits that technological and digital innovation is possible for all students and is in fact enhanced when students have opportunities to reflect on their own identities and cultures.

Providing a learning context that supports this reflection encourages students to understand the current biases in technological development and to use technology in innovative ways to address issues that are meaningful to them and their communities [3]. It promotes a critical engagement with technology and the digital world amongst all students, highlighting key issues of equity and social justice and identifying how digital innovation can help to address these issues [4].

Why computing?

Computing is often seen as a neutral subject in which there are clear rules and programs to follow, with the person behind the code having little influence. However, the person’s cultural identity, which is made up of a number of factors such as their age, gender, where they live, their family income, and their religious beliefs, all affect the way they think about and understand the world. This has an impact on decisions they make during the design and development of computing systems. Having limited diversity among computer scientists can lead to bias when making these decisions, towards what is valued or understood by the dominant groups in society.

In England, the 2014 national curriculum requires that all children must be taught Computing between the ages of 5-16, although it is optional to take formal qualifications in computer science beyond the age of 14. The four devolved nations within the UK have different curricula but all have a slot in the curriculum in some form for a digitally-related subject. A wide range of learning resources are being developed to teach computing, but little, if any, research has been conducted regarding the cultural relevance of content within these resources in a UK setting. A lack of cultural responsiveness in the computing curriculum could contribute to the underrepresentation of young people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds in formal computing qualifications in the UK [5], affecting the way that these young people engage with and learn the subject. 

Project design

The project uses a collaborative and participatory design and focuses on the ways in which culturally responsive computing teaching can be implemented in primary and secondary schools.

We are investigating what adaptations to existing lessons might aid inclusivity. To date we have conducted two workshops in nine participating teachers’ schools during the first half of the year.

Qualitative data is being captured from the workshops and follow-up interviews. Full results will be available by the end of 2022

What’s next?

Firstly watch out for more information about the opportunity areas framework which we’re testing and will share through this website shortly. Next we’ll be sharing some of the key themes from our current research with you by the end of 2022 and will be disseminating these as widely as possible. In the meantime you can download the guidelines we developed and take a look at the poster.

Calling primary teachers

In a related project, funded by the Cognizant Foundation and led by the Raspberry Pi Foundation team within our research centre, we are developing primary classroom materials to support teachers to adapt their lessons to incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy for computing. As with the current project we will be working closely with a small set of teachers to enable us to co-create resources that meet schools’ needs; as researchers our role is to facilitate this co-creation. So now we’re looking for  primary teachers who teach Computing to Year 4 or Year 5 pupils in a school in England to work with us on this project. You can read more about the project here. 

[1] Leonard, H. C., Kirby, D., Sentance, S., Chinaka, L., Deutsch, M., Dimitriadi, Y., and Goode, J. (2021). Localising culturally responsive computing teaching to an English context: developing teacher guidelines. In Understanding Computing Education (Vol 2): Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Proceedings of the Raspberry Pi Foundation Research Seminars (pp. 56-62). rpf.io/seminar-proceedings-vol-2-leonard-et-al

[2] Scott, K. A., & White, M. (2013). COMPUGIRLS’ Standpoint: Culturally responsive computing and its effect on girls of color. Urban Education, 48, 657 – 681. https://doi.org/10.1177/0042085913491219 

[3] Scott, K. A., Sheridan, K. M., & Clark, K. (2015). Culturally responsive computing: A theory revisited. Learning, Media and Technology, 40, 412-436. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2014.924966

[4] Madkins, T. C., Howard, N. R., & Freed, N. (2020). Engaging equity pedagogies in Computer Science learning environments. Journal of Computer Science Integration, 3(2), 1-27. https://doi.org/10.26716/jcsi.2020.03.2.1

[5] Kemp, P. E. J, Wong,B and  Berry, M. G. 2019. Female Performance and Participation in Computer Science: A National Picture. ACM Trans. Comput. Educ. 20, 1, Article 4 (March 2020), 28 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3366016