Recently, I attended the National Science Foundation’s REvolutionizing engineering and computer science Departments (NSF RED) Principal Investigators Meeting, sponsored by the NSF and organized by the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE). At the meeting, engineering and computer science faculty, engineering education researchers, sociologists, organizational change experts, graduate students, and many others (roughly 120 individuals) shared their work on transformational change projects that target engineering and computer science students’ second year. These projects vary widely—from curriculum changes, to co-curricular activities, to wholesale reorganizations of entire colleges—but one thing the projects hold in common is their focus on improving diversity, equity, and inclusion(DEI) in STEM.
There are many strategies the RED teams are employing to improve DEI at their institutions, and the sessions at the meeting were their opportunity to share this work with other attendees. I selected “Theater of the Oppressed and Other Social Justice Stimuli for Organizational Transformations,” as one of the many excellent sessions I attended. “Theater” was presented by Sarah Provencal, adjunct professor of theater at Winthrop University and Celine Latulipe, professor of software and information systems at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. But this was no ordinary conference session, where academics stand on stage and lecture attendees on the benefits of active learning while they subject us to PowerPoints and minimal interaction.
Instead Provencal and Latulipe invited us to engage in their subject using acting exercises that they are introducing to their students. These exercises are based on the work of Brazilian theater director Augusto Boal. Theater of the Oppressed (TotO) has a long and influential history in theater circles. Using the work of educator Paolo Friere as a base, Boal developed theatrical forms and techniques as a “means of promoting social and political change. In the Theater of the Oppressed, the audience becomes active, such that as spect-actors’ they explore, show, analyze and transform the reality in which they are living” (Wikipedia),
For the RED meeting TotO session, our leaders offered this explanation of the work we would do: Continue reading “Acting for Computer Scientists and Engineers”