So how do we teach Computing?
24 June 2020
Since computing was included in the national curriculum in England in 2014, a significant focus in CPD was on supporting teachers to feel confident in topics they had not previously studied. Hence lots of CPD became available on learning to program, algorithms, networking and how computers work. But in recent years my experience has been that more and more teachers are asking for support around teaching methods, particularly around how to support students who find programming and other aspects of computing difficult. In other subjects, for example in mathematics, teachers talk to each other about how to teach that tricky topic a lot - and it’s just the same for computing! In mathematics and science there is oodles of research about which approaches work best, and increasingly some research we can look at in computing too.
“How you teach it” is sometimes referred to as pedagogical content knowledge. Back in 1987, Lee Shulman wrote “Pedagogical content knowledge represents the blending of content and pedagogy into an understanding of how particular topics, problems or issues are organised, represented, and adapted to the diverse interests and abilities of learners, and presented for instruction.”
At the NCCE, we have lots of resources to support you with developing knowledge and skills in all aspects of computing, through remotely delivered CPD run by our excellent Computing Hubs and through online courses that you can take over 3 or 4 weeks. But we are not all about subject knowledge. We have courses that focus on pedagogy, for example Programming Pedagogy in Primary Schools: Developing Computing Teaching and Programming Pedagogy in Secondary Schools: Inspiring Computing Teaching, and these draw on the expertise and experience of many computing teachers.
But that’s not all! We believe that continually sharing ideas and research about how best to teach computing will help teachers, and those training to teach, with ideas for how to support students more effectively and provide tried and tested strategies for use in the classroom. These resources can be found at http://teachcomputing.org/pedagogy and are updated regularly. Knowing that teachers don’t have much time, each big idea or strategy for teaching computing is summarised on a Quick Read (for which we took inspiration from Cambridge Maths’ excellent Espressos). Keeping you bang up-to-date is our newsletter Research Bytes, and for those car journeys or long runs, we have a podcast Teach Computing which is available from all your favourite podcast services. All of these resources have been developed in conjunction with current, experienced teachers and other experts, and all draw upon the latest computing education research. The intention of these resources is that you will find some great ideas on how to engage students who may be unmotivated or switched off, and also learn some new strategies to help you support students’ understanding of some of the more complex computing concepts. We believe that computing is for everyone and as such, we need to have a variety of possible approaches to teaching each topic up our collective sleeves to ensure accessibility for all our students.
One of the findings from decades of educational research is that teacher action research in the classroom is an extremely effective form of CPD! Having the time to reflect on what the barriers are to learning in your classroom, plan an intervention, often in the form of a change to your teaching practice, and then evaluate whether it engenders improvement, has positive impacts both on teacher expertise and learning. For this reason, we are launching a special programme for classroom action research in computing. This will take the form of an online course, facilitated by experts in the field, lasting over a six month period. Find out more about this opportunity here.
We’d like to hear from you about your classroom practice in computing. Your experience with different ways of teaching computing in the classroom will add to our collective understanding about what works in the computing classroom. Right now, we’re in unusual times so surviving various combinations of home learning and remote delivery with your classes may be your greatest concern. But keep your eye on our pedagogy page for an opportunity to contribute your experiences. In the meantime you can share some feedback with us or get in touch with our pedagogy team at firstname.lastname@example.org
Beyond our newsletters, quick reads and podcast you can also keep abreast of current developments by following us on Twitter, joining a weekly CAS Chat, becoming part of CAS Research or joining in a Research Seminar from from Raspberry Pi Foundation