New ExploringCS Working Paper: How do we avoid CS10K going to CS5K only five years later?

July 27, 2014 at 9:35 am 1 comment

An important new working paper from the ExploringCS group asks the question: If we achieve CS10K, how do we avoid only having CS5K left after only five years?  This is exactly the question that Lijun Ni was exploring in her dissertation on CS teacher identity.

Of the 81 teachers who have participated in the ECS program over the last
five years, 40 are currently teaching ECS in LAUSD. These numbers reveal that we
have “lost” more teachers than we have “retained.” Of the 40 teachers who are
currently teaching the ECS course, 5 of them had a 1-2 year interval in which they
did not teach the course. This means that fully 45 of the 81 teachers who have
participated in the ECS program have experienced a teaching “disruption” which has
ended their participation in the ECS teacher community for a year or longer.

In particular, they ask us to consider the dangers of short-term fixes to long-term problems, which is a point I was trying to make when arguing that we may be 100 years behind other STEM subjects in terms of making our discipline-based education available to all.

In response to scaling up challenges, we can expect a rise of “quick-fix”
solutions that have a potential to undercut progress. One quick-fix “solution” to
address CS teacher shortage or the need for deepened teacher content knowledge
are programs that bring industry professionals to assist teachers in CS classrooms.
While we are interested in learning more about the outcomes of these programs,
because there can be value in students hearing from experts in the field, there are
also risks to having industry professionals take on a teaching role in the classroom
without professional development in effective and relevant pedagogy and belief
systems and equitable practices. Will industry professionals deliver content
knowledge the way they were taught, not having had experience working with the
novice learner? Will they focus on working with the students who think more like
they do, to the neglect of the other students? In short quick fixes like these may
inadvertently perpetuate the persistent divides in the field.

I add to their list of questions: Does bringing in IT professionals reduce the administrative pressure that pushes teachers out of CS?  Does it help to create the context and environment that supports CS teachers?

I used this working paper in my post this month for Blog@CACM.  Vint Cerf recently gave testimony in the Senate recommending a requirement for CS in all primary and secondary schools.  The ECS experience (and Lijun Ni’s work) point toward the need to create a supportive environment for CS teaching if we want to achieve Vint’s recommendation.

Highly recommended read.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  July 28, 2014 at 1:50 am

    I hate to say “I could have told you so”, but, I could have told you so.

    This is perfectly consistent with the TeachScheme! experience, which we learned from over 800 teachers. At first we thought it was just something we were doing, but it soon became clear that there are lots of factors at work, such as teaching load distribution. Every now and then, our carefully-trained, eager, excited CS teacher would unfortunately be doing, say, history the next year.

    This is one of the reasons why Matthias and I argued that if CS is to succeed at schools, it needs a much more stable entry point, and math is not only stable, it can also be symbiotic (http://cs.brown.edu/~sk/Publications/Papers/Published/fk-why-cs-doesnt-matter/). This was the argument that the CS powers most assuredly did not want to hear (and still don’t, because what’s sexy about taking this view?).

    Reply

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