Archive for August 17, 2012

ICER2012 Preview: Adapting the Disciplinary Commons for High School CS Teachers

While the schedule for the International Computing Education Research (ICER) 2012 conference is now up, the papers aren’t linked to it.  I’m guessing that it’s because of the snafu that ACM had with their publishing contractor.  I was waiting for the papers to be linkable before I started talking about our other two papers. Instead, I’ll just link to versions of our submitted papers (but not the final ones).

I’ve already talked about Lauren’s paper on using subgoal analysis to improve instruction about App Inventor, which I’ve made available here.  Here I’ll tell you a bit about Briana Morrison’s paper on adapting the Disciplinary Commons model for high school CS teachers.

The Disciplinary Commons is a model for professional development that Sally Fincher and Josh Tenenberg developed.  We received NSF CPATH funding during the last three years to create the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Education (DCCE), which included both high school and university faculty.  The university part wasn’t all that successful, and wasn’t the most interesting part of the work.  The really interesting part was how Briana, Ria Galanos, and Lijun Ni adapted the DC model to make it work for high school teachers.

There are really two big needs that high school CS teachers have that are different than university CS teachers:

  • Recruiting strategies:  There are no majors in high school (in general) in the United States.  High school CS teachers have no guaranteed flow of students into their classes. High school computer science is an elective in the US.  If you want to teach CS, you recruit students into your class, or else you’ll end up teaching something else (or you lose your job).
  • A Community:  While I’m sure they exist, I’ve not yet met a higher education CS faculty member who is his or her own department.  Most high school CS teachers are the only CS teachers in their school.  They rarely know any other high school CS teachers.  Providing them with a community makes a big difference in terms of their happiness, teaching quality, and retention.

Briana does a great job in her paper of explaining what happened in the DCCE over the three years that we ran it, and providing the evidence that good things happened.  The evidence that the recruiting strategies worked is astounding:

According to these self reported numbers, the high school teacher participants increased the number of AP CS students in the year following their participation in the DCCE by 302%. One teacher in Year 3 had a 700% increase in students in her AP CS class and attributed it to the recruiting help received from the DCCE.

The evidence that the community-building helped is actually even stronger.  We had The Findings Group as our external evaluators on DCCE, and they used social network analysis (SNA).  The diagram is compelling, and the stats on the network show that the teachers dramatically increased their awareness and use of the network of high school CS teachers.

Briana is continuing to work with DCCE, to help other high school disciplinary commons start up around the country.  NSF CPATH is allowing us to spend out the remaining money to fund her travel to help out other groups.  Briana is now a PhD student working with me, and she’s figuring out what her dissertation is going to look like, and if it’ll build on the success of DCCE.

(NSF CPATH funded DCCE. All the claims and opinions here are mine, not necessarily those of any of the funders.)

August 17, 2012 at 8:18 am 5 comments

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