SIGCSE Preview: Lijun Ni and Factors Influencing Teacher Change

March 2, 2010 at 9:59 am 9 comments

Lijun Ni is a PhD student working with me, who is interested in how to support computer science teachers.  In computing education, we tend to worry about the students. Lijun started work on her doctorate with a focus on the teacher.  She and Tom McKlin recently did a series of interviews with teachers who attended workshops from “Georgia Computes!” on robotics, MATLAB, and Media Computation curricula.  Lijun and Tom wanted to find out what influenced teachers’ adoptions (and lack of adoptions), what questions the teachers asked themselves, and what change was necessary to make the adoption successful.  Their SIGCSE paper describes the results. The paper is particularly aimed at developers of new curricula and tools, to identify the questions that workshops need to answer to help teachers adopt.

Her dissertation work is slightly different, addressing an important question related to the CS10K project.  The goal of the CS10K project is to have 10,000 CS teachers in 10K schools by 2015.  Given that about 46% of teachers quit in the first five years, Lijun is asking: “How do we avoid having only 5K teachers in 2020?”

Lijun is studying teacher identity.  Education research results show that teachers who have a sense of identity as a particular kind of teacher (e.g., as a mathematics teacher or a science teacher or a business teacher):

  • (a) are less likely to quit teaching, and
  • (b) seek to become better at that kind of teacher, e.g. they take workshops and other forms of professional development. (And they tend to look for and try out new curricula — which relates to her SIGCSE 2010 paper.)

So, what influences teachers seeing themselves as “computer science teachers”?  And what do teachers mean by that term?  Lijun has been interviewing high school teachers, to understand how they define “computer science teacher.”  She is proposing to study the DCCE teachers, to explore how the experience of DCCE influences their perception of being a computer science teacher.

Lijun is working on a PhD in Human Centered Computing. Why is being a “computer science teacher” different (and worthy of research, especially in a computing college) than being a math teacher or science teacher?  Let’s put it this way: How would you define “computer science” teacher?  The whole field is challenged to define “computer science.”  Few states offer certification for computer science teachers, so the main source of identification (“My teaching certificate says I’m…”) is missing. Many teachers whom Lijun has interviewed see Computer Science as “Apps++” or as “Applied Math.”  She uses her computing background to understand the teacher’s perspectives, and how those definitions might differ from how the academic community might define “computer science.”

If you’d like to hear more about Lijun’s work, be sure to find her at SIGCSE next week.

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