MSU helps increase computer science equity and access in Detroit

December 8, 2021

Since joining the Michigan State University College of Education faculty in 2014, Professor Aman Yadav has been a leader in ensuring teachers and students have access to computer science education. A collaborative grant project for nearly $1 million from the National Science Foundation is expanding that work into new spaces—and with equity in mind.

School desks appearing on top of a computer chalkboard

“Broadly, our work at MSU has enabled pathways for students to be exposed to computing ideas and tools. Now, we need to go beyond just providing access,” Yadav explained. “We need to support computer science teachers in the classroom, so they’re providing quality CS instruction with a focus on social and racial justice issues. We are going beyond just providing access to CS by centering students, their families and their community in the classroom”

Using the grant, MSU and University of Detroit Mercy are partnering on a project that aims to:

  • Develop student interest in computer science (CS), particularly those from marginalized groups
  • Build capacity in teachers to deliver high-quality instruction in Michigan schools
  • Support teachers to bring culturally responsive computing into their CS instruction.

Yadav is principal investigator at MSU for a portion of the project, with Assistant Professor Michael Lachney serving as co-PI. They will focus on efforts to incorporate social and racial justice into high school computer science courses in Detroit Public Schools Community District.

“We also need to challenge views that technologies are unbiased and bring criticality into CS,” Yadav said.

Aman Yadav
Aman Yadav

“To do so,” Yadav continued, “we need to illuminate how the design and use of technologies disproportionally harms communities of color. Within our work, we want to highlight the role computer science plays in the design of technologies that are biased.”

Lachney added: “It will take a village to broaden the participation of Black and Latinx children in Detroit. We have known for a long time that expanding access to technology is only part of the story of racial equity in CS education. In addition we need to expand access to quality CS pedagogy as well as figure out ways to collaborate with local community leaders and cultural experts to connect that pedagogy to students’ lives in meaningful ways.”

Michael Lachney
Michael Lachney

University of Detroit Mercy’s leadership in the grant will test a unique model in which a UDM instructor co-teaches with a high school teacher for an entire year to build capacity for high-quality computer science instruction. In addition, the project team will work to educate school counselors on what computer science is and how to encourage students from marginalized groups to be successful in computer science.

The “Collaborative Research: Moving beyond access, increasing teacher knowledge to teach rigorous equity-focused high school computing” grant amounts to nearly $1 million in funding to support Michigan high school students and teachers in computer science.

Ultimately, the teams hope the collaboration will effectively train teachers, immerse racial and social justice further into curriculum and integrate computer science throughout required, core curriculum in high school.

A new perspective

The topics being explored in these grants are not only relevant to today’s world, but to education across the lifespan. Yadav co-edited a book that “explores the relevance of computational thinking in the primary and secondary classroom.”

Available now, “Computational Thinking in Education: A Pedagogical Perspective” (Routledge, Nov. 2021) is the first edition of work that expands on what it means to bring computational ideas into the classroom, including historical and contemporary perspectives.

Yadav also contributed to three chapters exploring CT integration models, what competencies teachers need to bring computational thinking into the classroom, and how to educate pre-service teachers in CT.

Yadav & K-12 computer science: A timeline