Learning to Teach Computer Science: The Need for a Methods Course : CACM
Pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) is the knowledge that teachers have about teaching specific content. “How People Learn” suggests that it’s much more important for student learning than general teaching knowledge. To create credentialing for CS, we need to offer CS methods courses that teach CS PCK. Aman Yadav and Tim Korb teach one of these courses at Purdue, and have an article in this month’s CACM on how it works.
Learning to teach can be conceptualized around four main ideas—learning to think like a teacher, learning to know like a teacher, learning to feel like a teacher, and learning to act like a teacher.7 These knowledge systems are developed with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter to be taught as well as ways of teaching that subject matter, that is, pedagogical content knowledge. Teachers with in-depth pedagogical content knowledge understand ways of representing and formulating the subject matter—using powerful analogies, illustrations, examples, explanations, demonstrations, and so forth—to make it understandable to students.13 These teachers also know which topics students find easy or difficult to learn, which ideas (often misconceptions) students bring with them to the classroom, and how to transform those misconceptions. In addition, teachers understand how students develop and learn as well as how to teach diverse learners.
A methods course is typically where prospective teachers are introduced to this skill set and learn about “pedagogical ways of doing, acting, and being a teacher.”1 This knowledge is developed within the context of learning and teaching a particular subject area. Transforming Ball’s statement about mathematics to computer science implies that a computer science methods course is about how computer science is learned and taught, and about how classrooms can provide an environment for learning computer science.