Lesson Monday

Epicodus is committed to increasing diversity in the tech industry. That means serving students from underrepresented communities and also doing everything we can to increase the representation of these communities in the tech community. This includes BIPOC (black, indigenous and people of color), women, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and other marginalized populations.

As part of our effort towards building a more diverse tech industry, our curriculum includes DEI lessons, discussions, reflective assignments, and workshops. DEI is short for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. We will cover these terms (and many more) throughout the program. We'll also briefly cover these terms here:

  • Diversity: Traditionally, the tech industry has skewed heavily white and male. Bringing diversity to the tech industry means hiring and retaining people of color, women, LGBTQ, people with disabilities, and other marginalized populations. These groups also leave tech jobs at a much higher rate than white men, and diversity means addressing this higher attrition rate as well.

  • Equity: To define equity, we also have to think about equality. Equality is about treating everyone equally regardless of their background. Equity, on the other hand, means recognizing that everyone's background is different. For example, Epicodus used to have a technical assessment for its applicants. While this approach treated students equally, students who didn't grow up with access to technology were less likely to be able to pass that assessment. So we added the Introduction to Programming course to make our program more equitable for students with less of a technical background.

  • Inclusion: In order to diversify the tech industry, we need to be inclusive. While diversity refers to the traits and characteristics that make us different from one another, inclusion refers to the actions we take to make others feel welcome.

If these definitions seem a bit vague right now, that's okay. We'll be covering them more in depth in upcoming lessons.

Throughout the program, you will be asked to read short lessons on various DEI topics as homework. We have seen many situations where students from diverse backgrounds are marginalized, whether that's at Epicodus, in the tech industry, or elsewhere. By actively learning about DEI concepts, we can better work together to include students from all backgrounds. Take the time to read through each lesson. We are open to feedback, and we encourage discussion on any topic.

There will also be a reflective assignment that accompanies every DEI lesson. We call these reflective assignments "reflections" where you'll write a short reflective response to a prompt on the same topic as the corresponding DEI lesson. You can read all about reflections in the DEI Reflective Assignments lesson. Completing these reflective assignments is optional, but highly encouraged! It is an opportunity for you to reflect and engage with important DEI topics by yourself.

Finally, we’ll also have dedicated time in class for one group discussion and four workshops. The first discussion will happen in the third week of class where we’ll be talking about microaggressions. To prepare for the discussion, you will read a lesson on microaggressions as homework. Then, in the 5th, 10th, and 15th week of the program, Epicodus leadership will conduct workshops with the entire student body that go into depth on a specific topic within diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Having periodic DEI discussions and workshops gives us an opportunity to shift the focus away from coding and onto working together on important DEI issues. We believe that no one person is an expert on all forms of marginalization, that harm can be done towards other groups and within groups, and that there’s a lot to gain in learning about DEI issues. Our intention is to learn from each others’ differences, similarities, and the intersections throughout our identities, privileges, and oppressions. We recognize that no one person can speak universally to an experience or identity, rather that we all benefit from intentional, ongoing education on justice and equity. Ultimately, our highest priority, even beyond teaching students to code, is to create a safe space for our students and be good stewards in the tech industry.

Community Agreements

To ensure a safe and productive space in our classroom, we’ve created a set of community agreements adapted from Discussion Ground Rules (Iowa State University Library) and Ground Rules and Tools: Facilitating Productive Discussions (UCAR). We ask that you respect these agreements in all interactions at Epicodus. Also, please read and review these agreements prior to each DEI discussion and workshop to better be in the right frame of mind for the discussions. As needed, we will modify these agreements as a group to meet the needs of the class.

“We” going forward refers to Epicodus staff and students. The DEI discussions and workshops at Epicodus are intended to be a place for discussion of ideas and for learning about differing viewpoints, not for debate or lecture. There are no experts in DEI and we are here to listen to each other’s viewpoints. Heading into each session, it is important to understand that everyone sees and experiences the world differently, and what seems “right” in your experience may not be so in someone else’s. Everyone is asked to consider different perspectives, for the purpose of sensitivity, learning, and growth.

Recognize: We recognize that we must strive to overcome historical and divisive biases, such as racism and sexism, in our society.

Acknowledge: We acknowledge that we are all systematically taught misinformation about our own group(s) and about members of other groups. This is true for everyone, regardless of our group(s).

No Blame: We agree not to blame ourselves or others for the misinformation we have learned, but to accept responsibility for not repeating misinformation after we have learned otherwise.

Trust: Everyone has come to the table to learn, grow, and share. We acknowledge that we may be at different stages of learning on the content and discussion topics. We will trust that people will do the best they can. We all make mistakes and have bad days; when these occur, let's challenge and encourage each other to do better.

Respect: We agree to treat other participants' reflections and questions with respect. We acknowledge once again that we may be at different stages of learning on the topic. However, this does not mean we should ignore problematic statements. See the information below on calling in and calling out. Both approaches are valid and can be done with care and respect, with the goal of helping each other learn.

Individual Experience: We agree that no one should be required or expected to speak for their whole race or gender. We can't, even if we wanted to.

Share the Air: Share responsibility for including all voices in the discussion. If you have a tendency to dominate discussions, take a step back and help the group invite others to speak. If you tend to stay quiet, challenge yourself to share ideas so others can learn from you. We acknowledge though, that nobody is required to share their experiences and nobody is expected to educate others. We will not call on any individual or call for members of a specific group to speak up.

Not Experts: Epicodus Staff are not experts. They are here to help facilitate the process. They and everyone in the group are here to learn.

Ask for help: It's okay not to know. Keep in mind that we are all still learning and are bound to make mistakes when approaching a complex task or exploring new ideas. Be open to changing your mind, and make space for others to do so as well.

Ready to Write Your Reflection?

There is a reflective assignment for this lesson. If you are ready to write your reflection, head on over to Epicenter to find the prompt. If you are logged in to Epicenter, you can access the prompt by navigating to this link:

Reflection Prompt: Introduction to DEI Curriculum

Otherwise, you can find detailed instructions on accessing the reflection prompts in the DEI Reflective Assignments lesson.

Do you have feedback?

At the end of each DEI lesson, you’ll find this section. We welcome your feedback and want to hear about your experience of the DEI curriculum, discussions and workshops. We outline all of the ways you can give feedback in the student handbook.

Lesson 19 of 64
Last updated October 19, 2021