One of the main goals of the College Board AP Computer Science Principles course is to broaden participation and increase diversity in computer science education, in general. As teachers of CS, we continually want to grow our courses to reach and include as many students as possible in the CS experience.
As such, it is important to think about concrete ways we can recruit students to take our courses, especially from groups that have been historically underrepresented in computer science.
The following is a list of evidence-based recruitment strategies compiled by Joanna Goode, of the University of Oregon, coauthor of Stuck in the Shallow End. These strategies are recommended by the College Board.
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.
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. In your school’s presentation and handouts:
- Describe the key topics and the computational practices that underlie the course.
- 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.
Encourage Students to Demonstrate their Work
Viewing the work that other students have done can engage newcomers and motivate them to get involved.
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 high school 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 computation thinking and coding skills are key 21st-century skills and can contribute to students’ success as much as reading, writing and math skills!
- 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 an AP and computer science 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.
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