Saturday, February 22, 2020

Researchers to help diversify STEM with program for Hispanic educators

Researchers to help diversify STEM with program for Hispanic educators

JANUARY 16, 2020 — A team of UTSA researchers is helping to bring more diversity to the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields by growing the Hispanic population of teachers in these areas. 

A team from the College of Education and Human Development and the College of Sciences is teaming up with San Antonio ISD to create a teacher professional development program that would train in-service teachers to become high school computer science teachers with support from a $999,556 three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. 

“We are very excited to receive this grant, which will enable students and teachers in our community to have more equitable access and experiences in computer science and help increase the minority participation in computer science and other STEM fields,” said Timothy Yuen, associate professor and assistant chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching. “School districts in San Antonio are looking to create more computer science experiences in their schools.” 


“They will be supported by our expert team of teacher educators who specialize in culturally responsive and critical STEM education.”

TIMOTHY YUEN, Assistant Chair of the Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching



The UTSA team consists of Yuen; interdisciplinary learning and teaching associate professors Maria Arreguin, Crystal Kalinec-Craig and Emily Bonner; computer science assistant professor Amanda Fernandez; and mathematics assistant professor Priya Prasad. The SAISD team consists of Johnny Vahalik, senior executive director for college, career and military readiness; Christina Mank-Allen, director for career and technical education; Konise Millender, program coordinator for computer science; and Alfredo Losoya, program coordinator for special populations. 

Together the researchers are developing the CS4SA-HS program, which will recruit 15 SAISD teachers from across the district for each of two years. 

The teachers will go through a three-week summer institute followed by monthly workshops in which they will learn core computer science concepts and skills aligned with the Texas state standards for high school computer science. They will also focus on critically responsive instructional approaches to teaching computer science in classrooms with diverse students. 

As part of the program the SAISD teachers also will have the opportunity to work with high school students and lead computer sciences activities in the Youth Code Jam’s summer camps. Youth Code Jam provides hands-on computing programs for K-12 student and teacher professional development. 

“Throughout the year, they will be supported by our expert team of teacher educators who specialize in culturally responsive and critical STEM education and computer scientists,” Yuen said. “By the end of that year the teachers should be fully prepared for the Texas state certification exam for high school computer science.” 

The biggest goal with receiving the NSF grant and starting the program, according to Yuen, is increasing the Hispanic participation in computer science through high-quality in-service teacher professional development. 


Learn more about UTSA’s Department of Interdisciplinary Learning and Teaching, Department of Computer Science and Department of Mathematics.


“SAISD is seeking to build capacity for a computer science pathway for its high schools, and it needs to develop a strong core of qualified computer science teachers,” Yuen said. 

Since SAISD serves an urban community that is predominantly Hispanic in the center of the city of San Antonio, it makes sense, he said, that efforts in increasing Hispanic participation in computer science and other STEM areas begins with SAISD. 

Hispanic individuals are an underrepresented minority within computer science and other STEM areas, according to Yuen. 

NSF data reported 10% of bachelor’s degrees and less than 4% of masters and doctoral degrees in computer science were earned by Hispanic individuals, yet they make up about 17% of the U.S. population, according to Yuen. “Broadening diversity in the STEM fields is a major goal across the country and the world,” he said. 

In conjunction with the program the team plans to investigate how in-service teacher professional development can prepare secondary teachers from non–computer science backgrounds to successfully teach computer science in their multiculturally diverse classrooms and what the impacts are of culturally responsive computer science education in terms of increasing Hispanic participation in computer science and other STEM fields. 

The research will investigate the best practices in increasing Hispanic participation in computer science through high school teacher professional development, according to Yuen. “Given that broadening diversity in the STEM area is a concern of the field across the country and the world,” he said, “we hope to learn more about how educators can empower and inspire all students to participate in STEM fields.”

Valerie Bustamante


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