While the technology sector remains one of the fastest growing industries across the nation and continues to rapidly permeate all facets of society, the next generation of the computing workforce must be equipped with the skills to examine how current systems exacerbate inequities and to develop new, more equitable innovations. To enable this shift, current computer science (CS) instruction will need to develop students’ computing identities, computational thinking, and ethical reasoning. Teachers are key to this transformation, yet little is known about PreK-12 CS teachers and how equipped they are to undertake this new set of responsibilities. In order to examine the backgrounds of CS teachers and the support and resources needed to implement culturally relevant computing pedagogical practices, the Kapor Center and the Computer Science Teachers Association surveyed nearly 3,700 PreK-12 CS teachers across the nation in summer 2020.
Key findings include:
Credentials and Experiences of CS Teachers
- Almost 3/4 of teachers took at least one computing course during their undergraduate education. Nearly 30% of teachers graduated with a Computer and Technical Sciences degree and 6% graduated with a minor in CS.
- 95% of teachers held at least one teaching credential. Of those, 46% held a credential in Computer and Technical Sciences, 23% in Career Technical Education, and 1% in another STEM subject.
- Over half of respondents had more than 11 years of classroom experience (53%), but considerably fewer teachers reported 11+ years of experience in CS classrooms (16%).
- Less than 2/3 of teachers (61%) reported participating in a professional learning community and less than 1/3 of teachers (28%) reported participating in ongoing coaching.
Challenges to Equitable CS Classrooms
- When educators were asked if they had the material, supplies, equipment, and space necessary to implement CS teaching, only 65% reported sufficient resources. Teachers serving lower-income, elementary, and more racially-diverse schools were disproportionately affected by resource inaccessibility.
- Over 1/4 of teachers felt limited by their own subject matter expertise, specifically in elementary schools and lower-income schools, and expressed the need for low-cost CS professional development and collaboration opportunities, particularly relating to specific programming languages.
- Inequitable access to early computing exposure coupled with lack of support to pursue computing often restricts and deters students historically excluded from the field, with 24% of teachers reporting concern about students’ lack of CS exposure and 21% of teachers reporting concern about students’ lack of interest in CS. Teachers were more likely to report these concerns at lower-income and more racially-diverse schools.
- Just 61% of teachers saw the importance of covering computing’s role in perpetuating biases related to racism, sexism, and other inequities in the classroom. This was most prevalent among teachers in elementary, higher-income, rural, and less racially-diverse schools.
Current State of Culturally-Relevant Pedagogy in CS Classrooms and Challenges to Implementation
- 65% of teachers believed that existing CS curricular resources meets the needs of a diverse student body.
- Only slightly more than half felt that current CS content is culturally relevant and in alignment with student interests, and 55% of teachers found themselves having to revise existing curricula to make it more engaging and relevant.
- While 77% of teachers acknowledged the importance of incorporating diverse cultures and experiences to the success of their students, only 57% felt equipped to utilize culturally-relevant pedagogical practices.
- Despite making up the majority of the CS teacher workforce, only 59% of white teachers (compared to 67% of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Pacific Islander teachers) were confident utilizing material highlighting race, ethnicity, and culture.
The report concludes with a set of five recommendations for policymakers, educators, industry leaders, and school district administrators to support all computer science teachers in having the necessary equipment, curricula, and training needed to enact equity-centered pedagogies.
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