"Go[ing] Hard...as a Woman of Color": A Case Study Examining Identity Work within a Performative Dance and Computing Learning Environment

Kayla Desportes, Kathleen McDermott, Yoav Bergner, William Payne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Performing arts computing environments have received little attention in the educational sphere; yet, they offer opportunities for learners to validate their efforts, ideas, and skills through showcasing their work in a public-facing performance. In this work, we explore an out-of-school dance and computing educational program run by the organization, STEM From Dance. The organizational mission is to create an equitable learning experience for young women of color to engage with computing while exposing them to STEM careers. Through an analysis of eleven interviews with youth participants, instructors, and the executive director, we examine how the social, cultural, and political dimensions of the learning environment facilitate identity work in computing and dance. Our findings point to three primary activities used by the organization to promote equity: (1) providing psychological safety through a supportive community environment, (2) meaningfully engaging with learners' social and cultural context through creative work with constructionist artifacts, and (3) actively promoting identity work as women of color in computing and STEM through both artifact work and community events. Applying the constructs of identity and psychological safety we explore the tensions and synergies of designing for equity in this performing arts and computing learning environment. We demonstrate how the seemingly contradictory elements of a high-stakes performance within a novice learning environment provides unique opportunities for supporting young women of color in computing, making them non-negotiable in the organization's efforts to promote equity and inclusion. Our work illustrates how attending closely to the sociocultural dimensions in a constructionist learning environment provides lenses for navigating equity, identity work, and support for inclusive computing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number49
JournalACM Transactions on Computing Education
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 15 2022


  • Equity
  • computing education
  • dance
  • identity work

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Computer Science
  • Education


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