Alvidrez, M., Villa, E., Hampton, E., Roy, M. K., Sandoval, T., & Villagomez, A. (2023). Using Academic Controversy in a Computer Science Undergraduate Leadership Course: An Effective Approach to Examine Ethical Issues in Computer Science. In Proceedings of the American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition (Vol. 2023).

The technology field today, with continually emerging social media and communication platforms, is highly impacted by controversy and ethical considerations. It is imperative for computer science undergraduates to be prepared to face these issues as they enter the workforce. This paper describes how the design and pedagogical tools applied in a leadership course led to growth in the ability of these students to effectively confront ethical issues and handle controversial topics. With U.S. Department of Education funding, an interdisciplinary, multicultural team of faculty, researchers, and evaluators implemented an equity-oriented pilot course in leadership for undergraduate computer science students. The site of course implementation was The University of Texas at El Paso, a Hispanic-Serving Institution with over 85% Hispanics enrolled in undergraduate studies, including computer science. Some 90% of the students in this project were Hispanic. The course was piloted over four semesters, which allowed the instructional team to perfect the approaches that were most successful for student success. The leadership course integrated two primary approaches: 1) a relational model of leadership used to examine complexities that arise when technology professionals encounter multiple perspectives and diverse ideas; and 2) cooperative learning approaches, including constructive academic controversy model, used to develop leadership skills while contextualizing the role of ethics in computing. The course culminated in an academic controversy exercise where student teams examined the Facebook /Whistleblower controversy. The teams gathered research-based arguments, debated with each other, changed sides, and debated again. Eventually, they developed and presented an informed consensus of positions. Throughout the process, students practiced critical professional skills such as effective team communication, active listening, and perspective-taking—effective tools for team communication and diversity appreciation. This approach to leadership education has significant implications for equity with a focus on student thinking, perspectives, and values.

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