As an educator, you play an influential role in your students’ decisions to take AP courses. It’s likely you’ll have to make an extra effort to recruit girls and underrepresented minorities to create a diverse class. Your encouragement will spark new pathways for these students. Here are some common recruitment challenges and suggestions to address them:
- I don’t want to be the only girl (or minority) in the class. Reach out to underrepresented students in groups that could take AP CSP together: sports teams, clubs, or other courses. Share stories of similar students who are enrolled in the course.
- I don’t have any experience or a computer at home. Students may think that they will need special skills or equipment to study computer science. This isn’t the case for AP CSP. There are no prerequisites, and all work can be done with computers during class time.
- Computer science has nothing to do with my interests. Girls need to see their interests represented in the course. Share examples of how AP CSP can prepare them for success not only in computer science majors, but also in a variety of non-computer science fields like education, healthcare, community service and activism.
Below are more evidenced -based strategies designed to help schools ensure that all students have the opportunity to take AP Computer Science Principles, with a focus on students who have traditionally been underrepresented in computer science.
Extend a personal invitation
Students may respond positively to a personal invitation to enroll in a computer science course. As an example, high school teachers can visit algebra classes during the course selection process to extend an invitation to all students to enroll in their class the following year. You can explain how they have already met the recommended prerequisites for AP Computer Science Principles. In your school’s presentation and handouts:
- Describe the key topics and the computational practices that underlie the course, including creativity, programming, and the Internet.
- Explain how important components of this class are collaborating with other students and building creative artifacts such as apps, digital music files, animation or (suggest something from biology/medicine) and collaborating with other students.
- Explain how learning computer science can lead to majors and opportunities in any field, such as computer science, interdisciplinary studies, and industry careers – for example, graphic design, medicine, political science, and engineering.
- When possible, coordinate class activities so that prospective students can learn more about the course by observing their peers completing computing assignments.
Recruit in clusters
Recruit students from groups that are representative of your target demographic categories. Look to different sports groups, clubs, or other courses to find groups of students who will enroll and provide social support to one another in the classroom. Examples: girls’ basketball team, Spanish club, Black Student Union, AVID program, etc.
Encourage students to demonstrate their work
Current students provide highly effective displays of engagement, excitement, and peer advocacy for computing. As an example, during Computer Science Education Week (which usually takes place in early December) and spring enrollment weeks (and at other school events), teachers can have students advocate for computer science by describing the course and showcasing their computing projects. Use videos of students’ projects for future recruitment.
You can also schedule a middle school demonstration and have current or former HS students present their work and talk about the course.
Parents can influence students’ college preparatory and career-focused course selection. During family-oriented school events and in letters home, provide a single-page course information sheet that features:
- Key questions and topics that drive the course
- Potential community applications of the course
- Information about higher education computing majors and pathways
- Industry job information, including salaries
Letters and course information sheets should be available in multiple languages.
Counselors play a key role in encouraging students to consider computer science courses. Provide them descriptions of the course’s focus on creativity, communication, and collaboration. Use the suggestions below to help counselors think about the course and which students would benefit most from taking it.
- Describe how AP Computer Science Principles was specifically designed by the National Science Foundation and the College Board to engage a diverse group of students in learning computing
- Explain that a primary goal for this course is to engage a diverse group of students that represents your school’s demographics
- Include information about interdisciplinary computing majors and pathways (design, bioinformatics, etc.)
- Provide industry job information, including salaries
Create enrollment policies for equity and diversity
All students should have equitable access to this new course. Care should be taken to ensure that students taking the course are demographically representative of the school’s population before confirming their enrollment. Therefore, we encourage you to create policies that promote and enable diversity in the course and to not create barriers that would discourage underrepresented groups from participating.
The research-based strategies outlined here were compiled by Joanna Goode, of the University of Oregon, coauthor of Stuck in the Shallow End.
- Aschbacher, P. R., Li, E., & Roth, E. J. (2010). Is science me? High school students’ identities, participation and aspirations in science, engineering, and medicine. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 47(5), 564–582.
- Google. (2014). Women who choose computer science—What really matters. Retrieved from http://static.googleusercontent.com/media/www.wenca.cn/en/
- Goode, J. (2008). Increasing diversity in K–12 computer science education: Lessons from the field. Proceedings of the 38th SIGCSE Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, 40(1), 362–371.
- Goode, J. (2007). If you build teachers, will students come? The role of teachers in broadening computer science learning for urban youth. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 36(1), 65–88.
- Goode, J., Estrella, R., & Margolis, J. (2006). Lost in translation: Gender and high school computer science. In W. Aspray & J. M. Cohoon (Eds.), Women and Information Technology: Research on Underrepresentation (pp. 89–113). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
- Margolis, J., Estrella, R., Goode, J., Holme, J. J., & Nao, K. (2008). Stuck in the shallow end: Education, race, and computing. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.