In the 2020s, educational institutions have widely adopted Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) as a core philosophy, value system, and service mandate. In addition to the scope of work outlined in the previous section, there is a growing expectation that instructional practices will serve to implement a general EDI approach. The previous section stated that instructors have considerable choice and freedom in how they conduct class business. This remains true. But what is changing in the current environment is that outcomes for students are weighing more heavily in the calculus of instructional success. Less and less, is a claim to be teaching well sustainable if the students are not learning well. Moreover, through EDI lenses, student learning outcomes are going to get disaggregated by race, gender, age, handicapping condition, and just about any other demographic category. An instructional program cannot work just for this race or that gender or only for students with a certain socio-economic or cultural background. Programs with such disparate outcomes will fail to meet the ever more explicit EDI requirements of schools both public and private. So freedom for the instructor, yes. But with a growing list of implicit and explicit obligations to meet a wide horizon of student learning needs. The challenge of making EDI specific, actionable, workable, functional, and demonstrable is a key motivation for why this guide exists. This is a systems document for systems thinkers. Love for common humanity and a passion for social justice does not translate directly into effective instructional practices for IT. Conversely, in today’s world, no IT instructional practice (regardless of technical wizardry) will be considered effective if it excludes major portions of humanity or offends against social justice. Like it or, IT education, like all education, is only getting more framed by social, political, and cultural conderations. This guide is looking to strike a balance between technical capability on the one hand, and social and cultural diversity on the other.
Adopting an IT mentality for the task at hand (see the previous Overview section on this), it appears we need a data dictionary. What, operationally, are we expressing with the component terms of EDI? Let’s break these terms down one at a time.
- Equity – in some sense treating students equally. Providing equal access.
- Diversity – respecting differences of race, gender, culture, language, socio-economic status, age, physical condition, life situation.
- Inclusion – letting people in. Not keeping people out.
The last one, Inclusion, is very central to understanding the EDI dimension of IT instruction. What, exactly, are students to be included in? Society in general contains a variety of component sub-systems (families, communities, neighborhoods, businesses, clubs, political parties, religions, voluntary associations, etc.). All of these are bounded. For each social sub-system, some people are “in”, others are “out”. A more inclusive system is open to more different types of people. In that sense, the community and technical college system is very inclusive. The CTC system has an open door policy that lets just about anyone sign up for classes of some type or another. On the other hand, even the CTC system is not absolutely wide open. Beyond the general admissions process and tuition fees (considerable barriers themselves to many prospective students), there are other boundaries erected to maintain academic integrity. Prerequisites are one example. To borrow an obvious example from math, it is not “inclusive” to put a student lacking Algebra into a Calculus class. Similarly, class size limits are enforced to make quality instruction available to those allowed into the class. A teacher who can work well with 25 students in a section will not work nearly as well with 100. For whatever instructional mode is involved (classroom, online, hybrid, special project, practicum) there is an upper limit to how many students can fit in a section. There are equity issues for both students and instructors involved in setting both prerequisites and class size limits. Suffice it to say that “inclusion” needs a more precise meaning than just opening the door to every classroom and letting whoever wanders in take up a seat.
A workable definition of EDI for IT instruction might run something like this:
- Equal access to IT pathways for students of any race, gender, or life circumstance.
- Diverse instructional methods optimizing educational opportunities for the widest range of students.
- Inclusion in IT courses, subject to prerequisite qualifications and demonstrated success in each sequential course.
Given these definitions, at the entry level of IT, there needs to be a generally prerequisite-free, open-to-everyone type of survey course experience. Access to additional courses in a pathway sequence would then be contingent upon skills demonstrations at the entry level. This would let instructors working in more advanced levels of the IT sequence (the type of instructor mostly likely to be using this guide) focus more on IT content presentation and not on extreme variations of student academic background. That being said, though, today’s classroom, like today’s society, is more diverse than ever, and you can still expect considerable IT and academic skills variations at any level of an IT class. Somehow, as an instructor, you need to make it work. The rest of this guide is here to give you some tools you can use for IT success in an EDI context.