Naming a field: “CS Ed Research” isn’t going to work

April 11, 2014 at 9:29 am 67 comments

Last month, Steve Cooper organized a remarkable workshop at Stanford on the Future of Computing Education Research.  The question was, “How do we grow computing education research in the United States?”  We pretty quickly agreed that we have a labor shortage — there are too few people doing computing education research in the US.  We need more.  In particular, we need more CS Ed PhD students.  The PhD students do the new and exciting research. They bring energy and enthusiasm into a field.

We also need these students to fit into Computing departments, where that could be Computer Science, or Informatics, or Information Systems/Technology/Just-Information Departments/Schools/Colleges.  Yes, we need a presence in Education Schools at some point, to influence how we develop new teachers, but that’s not how we’ll best push the research.

How do we get there?

Roy Pea came to the event.  He could only spare a few hours for us, and he only gave a brief 10 minute talk, but it was one of the highlights of the two days for me.  He encouraged us to think about Learning Sciences as a model.  Learning Science grew out of cognitive science and computer science.  It’s a field that CS folks recognize and value.  It’s not the same as Education, and that’s a positive thing for our identity.  He told us that the field must grow within Computing departments because Domain Matters.  The representations, the practices, the abstractions, the mental models — they all differ between domains.  If we want to understand the learning of computing, we have to study it from within computing.

I asked Roy, “But how do we influence teacher education?  I don’t see learning science classes in most pre-service teacher development programs.”  He pointed out that I was thinking about it all wrong.  (Not his words — he was more polite than that.)  He described how learning sciences has influenced teacher development, integrated into it.  It’s not about a separate course: “Learning science for teachers.”  It’s about changing the perspective in the existing classes.

Ken Hay, a learning scientist (and long-time friend and colleague) who is at Indiana University, echoed Roy’s recommendation to draw on the learning sciences as a model.  He pointed out that Language Matters.  He said that when Indiana tried to hire a “CS Education Researcher,” faculty in the CS department said, “I teach CS. I’m a CS Educator.  How is s/he different than me?”

We started talking about how “Computer Science Education Research” is a dead-end name for the research that we want to situate in computing departments.  It’s the right name for the umbrella set of issues and challenges with growing computing education in the United States.  It includes issues like teacher professional development and K-12 curricula.  But that’s not what’s going to succeed in computing departments.  It’s the part that looks like the learning sciences that can find a home in computing departments.  Susanne Hambrusch of Purdue offered a thought experiment that brought it home for me.  Imagine that there is a CS department that has CS Ed Research as a research area.  They want to list it on their Research web page.  Well, drop the word “Research” — this is the Research web page, so that’s a given.  And drop the “CS” because this is the CS department, after all.  So all you list is “Education.”  That conveys a set of meanings that don’t necessarily belong in a CS department and don’t obviously connect to our research questions.

In particular, we want to separate (a) the research about how people learn and practice computing from (b) making teaching and learning occur better in a computing department.  (a) can lead to (b), but you don’t want to demand that all (a) inform (b).  We need to make the research on learning and practice in computing be a value for computing departments, a differentiator.  “We’re not just a CS department.  We embrace the human side and engage in social and learning science research.”   Lots of schools offer outreach, and some are getting involved in professional development.  But to do those things informed by learning sciences and informing learning sciences (e.g., can get published in ICER and ICLS and JLS and AERA) — that’s what we want to encourage and promote.

I was in a breakout that tried to generate names.  Michael Horn of Northwestern came up with several of my favorites.  Unfortunately, none of them were particularly catchy:

  • Learning Sciences of Computing
  • Learning Sciences for Computing
  • Computational Learning and Practice (sounds too much like machine learning)
  • Learning Sciences in Computing Contexts
  • Learning and Practice in Computing
  • Computational Learning and Literacy

We do have a name for a journal picked out that I really like: Journal of Computational Thinking and Learning.

I’d appreciate your thoughts on these.  What would be a good name for the field which studies how people learn computing, how to improve that learning, how professionals practice computing (e.g., end-user programming, computational science & engineering), and how to help novices join those professional communities of practice? 

I can’t remember the last time I learned so much and had my preconceived notions so challenged in just two days.  I have a lot more notes on the workshop, and they may make it into some future blog posts.  Kudos to Steve for organizing an excellent workshop, and my thanks to all the participants!

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How MOOCs and Big Data could lead to Less Diverse Hiring: Those Who Could Be Left Behind Big data: are we making a big mistake? Yes, especially in education

67 Comments Add your own

  • 1. davidk6  |  April 11, 2014 at 9:38 am

    If you have the name of the journal, then you have the name of the field.

  • 2. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 11, 2014 at 9:53 am

    Susanne’s operational experiment is excellent. Let me offer you a different one.

    Suppose you have a top-50 CS research department — the kind with the PhD students who’re going to bring the energy you want to see. Say there’s a person there who is sympathetic to ICER, and would like her department to hire someone in the area. She presents her colleagues with a dossier (binder full?) of candidates — either ones who have applied, or the kind she wishes the department had hired in the past — to make her case.

    This dossier needs to compete with, say, machine learning, distributed systems, programming languages, HCI, and a dozen other areas. Keep in mind that even in the most friendly department, there will be hostility over areas because faculty slots are a very, very precious commodity. And this is the same sort of process every department has already gone through to overcome its prior blind spots (whether HCI or systems or theory or what have you).

    What would such a candidate need to be able to show and what should they not show? To me, someone with lots of SIGCSE papers is heavily suspect because of the way the SIGCSE community has made an utter meal of the reviewing process for papers. And I think to many people, publications in a “journal of computational thinking” would, I think, just earn a lot of chuckles and make an easy target for not taking seriously.

    • 3. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 10:29 am

      I agree with your predictions, Shriram. Do you have a name on the list that you like? Or another one to suggest?

      • 4. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:30 pm

        Nothing really grabs me, though “Learning and Practice of Computing” (slight variation on one of your entries) strikes me as a suitably meaningful (if still very bland) name.

        But really, until you fix the culture of the main conferences in terms of what they accept and how, this will all be lipstick on a pig. Good departments don’t count cites: they read papers. If they read papers and proceedings and find dreck, nothing else will matter.

        • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:54 pm

          We do have good conferences. I consider ICER and VL/HCC as having some of the best of this work around. SIGCSE Symposium is mostly not a research conference — it’s a practitioners conference.

  • 6. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 11, 2014 at 9:57 am

    I’ve read this twice now and I really don’t see a problem with calling it “CS Education.” I actually find Prof. Hambrusch’s thought experiment rather ironic when she suggested dropping “CS” because it is in the CS department. (Disclosure: Purdue is my alma mater, so I know Prof. Hambrusch and am quite familiar with the school.) The irony is that Purdue has a School of Engineering Education ( that is part of the College of Engineering. And, yes, they have a clearly identified research section of their page. But no one there is suggesting that it is okay to drop “Engineering” from the name because they happen to be located in CoE. As you mentioned, domain matters, so everyone is perfectly fine with calling it Engineering Education.

    • 7. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

      We have ambitions to be more successful than Engineering Education Research has been.

      • 8. Ken Hay  |  April 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm

        I think the challenge Mark is setting forth is to create an opportunity or space for those in CS whose expertise, scholarship, theory development, and research addresses cognitive and learning issues in CS in a way that goes beyond the basic requirements of university teaching (CS Ed). The creation of such a space creates the opportunity for a critical mass of work to advance the endeavor.

  • 9. Daniel Hickey (@dthickey)  |  April 11, 2014 at 10:00 am

    Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. Yes none of those names are catchy. Given what you are trying to accomplish, I think “Computational Literacy” might be a better choice, since “literacy” encompasses “learning”. And it rolls of the tongue pretty nicely.

    However… the most analogous community (i.e., disciplinary learning outside of schools of education) is Engineering Education which has programs, departments, a journal, and even a school with that name, and it seems to work fine. I guess from what is here I don’t understand why the situation would be different for CS than for engineering.

    • 10. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 10:26 am

      Because the general consensus at the meeting was that Engineering Education Research has failed. PhD’s in Engineering Education Research are not generally getting hired by traditional Engineering programs. Engineering Education (according to the people in the room who know the field well) is not making significant headway into K-12 schools. Engineering Education Research is not influencing education in most Engineering programs. It’s not a model we want to follow.

      • 11. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

        But Physics Ed people _are_ being hired by physics depts, if I understand correctly. And what do they call that sub-area?

        • 12. Mark Guzdial  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm

          Some, yes, but PER is unusual in that regard. (Probably a lot to do with Carl Wieman.) Most Math departments still avoid Math Ed people (and since Math Ed is the oldest of the DBER’s, that suggests that time alone doesn’t fix these things). I don’t know of Bio or Chem departments that hire Bio Ed or Chem Ed people.

          • 13. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 12, 2014 at 4:38 pm

            I think Physics Education Research is accepted in the physics community, because big-name physicists have championed physics education for decades. That is, physics education is regarded as an acceptable role for a first-rank physicist, and physics education research is accepted as a reasonable thing for a professor to be doing. As long as the CS academic community pushes research as the only worthy thing (or maybe it is fund-raising first, and research as a close second), with top CS faculty being “rewarded” with reduced teaching, there won’t be a lot of respect for CS education, and so no interest in CS education research.

  • 14. David Weintrop  |  April 11, 2014 at 10:33 am

    The suggestions for a name that Mike gave seem to play off “Learning Sciences”, what if we try and play off existing CS sub-fields, like HCI, so something like: Human-Computer Learning or Human-Computer Education. If nothing else it would distance us from the machine learning community.

    I can’t decide if I really like these names, but thought it an idea worth sharing.

    • 15. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      This line of thinking is promising. Also because I think HCI really is your closest area in many regards.

      • 16. Mark Guzdial  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:56 pm

        We had folks from the CHI community at the workshop, like Deborah Tatar of Virginia Tech. She said that she’s been trying for years to get the CHI community to take on a broader definition of HCI, but she feels that they’re never going to see learning sciences or CS Ed work as part of their field.

  • 17. Kathleen Weaver  |  April 11, 2014 at 11:09 am

    I have a master’s degree from the University of North Texas called Computer Education and Cognitive Studies (CECS). At the time I got the degree it was in the College of Education, but it’s moved to the College of Information and part of Learning Technologies. The same professors, about 10 years later.

    My emphasis was teaching high computer science / technology and I was in a learning cohort with other people in my district. Some were teaching in Elementary School labs, some were working on staff development for teachers who were not teaching technology and some were working on technology for the district.

  • 18. Kathleen Weaver  |  April 11, 2014 at 11:10 am

    The current department is found at

  • 19. Emmanuel Schanzer  |  April 11, 2014 at 11:32 am

    Something about Roy’s argument here doesn’t scan for me here. Learning Sciences is a model for someone who’s thinking about *how we learn* a given concept or set of concepts. This works well when the domain is well-defined, and when concept A can be said to rely on the acquisition of concept B. As long as there is at least some consensus for what the core concepts are and how they are taught in a given field, LS studies can be plugged into the curriculum and pedagogy of those who teach it. Without any consensus on curriculum, however, the teachers don’t have any structure on which to hang these studies.

    Can we really claim that Computer Science has been mapped out to this extent?

    Let’s assume Shriram’s fears are unfounded, and a top-50 school winds up hiring a professor of Learning Sciences into their CS department. This professor would be tasked with identifying the core ideas of Computer Science, connecting them in some kind of a loose hierarchy, and starting to research the major roadblocks for students to acquire them.

    Something tells me that any attempt to define — let alone map — the big ideas in CS would be met with an enormous amount of friction: Which is the more foundational concept: modeling, algorithms, or programming? Which is better acquired first? Oh wait, did I leave out security and complexity? And what about the *social impact* of things like the internet? I suspect the closest anyone has come to trying this sort of thing is the Computational Thinking movement, and even CT isn’t concrete enough for curriculum-writers. Without any consensus on what it means to “teach computer science”, there’s no structure on which to hang studies on “how we _learn_ computer science”.

    I’m not really disagreeing with Roy’s point here, Mark (or yours). I think we do need some LS-type research in the field, and I agree that it should come from departments of computer science. What’s bugging me is that there’s a much larger, hairier problem that I fear must solved first: a mapping of the field that gains broad support from the relevant stakeholders.

    • 20. Emmanuel Schanzer  |  April 11, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Ooof – waking up at 3am makes for some sloppy writing. Apologies.

    • 21. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 1:45 pm

      Emmanuel, my definition of Learning Sciences is 180 degrees different. It’s not about starting from what’s well-defined. Rather, it starts from understanding what real expertise is and teaching that. Remember that it grew out of the cognitive science novice-expert differences research. I think of learning scientists like Andy DiSessa who showed how even expert physicists fall back on Aristotelian physics sometimes when problem-solving. Or Jim Greeno’s work on the social contexts for learning and how that influences what is learned, what is valued, and so on. Brian Dorn’s work is an example of learning science — looking at what graphics designers really do, and what of CS they need to achieve their goals and practices.

      • 22. Emmanuel Schanzer  |  April 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

        I’m not at all saying that LS starts with what’s well-defined. We are in agreement here.

        In the original post, you wrote that your concern was about influencing teacher education. That is the point I’m responding to.

        I’m saying that the *impact* of LS studies is moderated by how well-defined the “teaching of X” is. If there’s no consensus on what it looks like to teach CS, I believe that studies on how students learn CS are unlikely to be used.

        • 23. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm

          I can use my own work in response to this one, Emmanuel. We know from our studies of high school CS teachers (Lijun Ni and Tom McKlin’s work) that teacher confidence is a critical variable influencing the kind of pedagogy that teachers use. CS Teachers lacking confidence prefer worksheets and recipe-based classroom education. Those with confidence are willing to engage in inquiry learning and more constructionist practices. What led to confidence? A big item was being able to read programs — not so much writing. They wanted to know that how to read their student’s programs. Most of CS pedagogy is about being able to write programs. We’re identifying a different learning goal from studying successful CS teachers.

          Now, how do we re-invent CS pedagogy for a different learning objective? We’re using a lot of educational psychology, e.g., worked examples to study, dual modality theory informing audio explanations of programs, and Parson’s Problems to lower extrinsic cognitive load.

          In my opinion, this is a learning sciences approach to supporting CS teachers.

          • 24. Emmanuel Schanzer  |  April 12, 2014 at 9:40 am

            Yes, that is absolutely a LS-approach. I’m still skeptical that it will find its way into classrooms for the reason I outlined above, but I’d love to be proven wrong. 🙂

          • 25. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:35 pm

            Mark, the kind of “CS ed” you’re describing could pretty easily just as well be classified (as you know) under HCI and/or end-user programming. Those are areas in which top research departments will hire (some more than others), and have hired, even in recent times. So I will suggest that those are not the interesting cases, because those students already have a pathway to a job where they can lead research projects of their own. I think looking at the hard cases would be more fruitful.

      • 26. Ken Hay  |  April 22, 2014 at 6:34 pm

        Just to jump in and add to Mark’s comments. In education we often split things up into curriculum, instruction, and learning; to put it simply. When you are talk about “well defined content”, you are referring curriculum or the “what” student will learn. Typically that has been the “domain” of the domain experts, computer scientists in this case. There are departments of “curriculum studies” in Schools of Education that study curricula. I was “raised” on Elliot Eisner’s 5 orientations (Development of Cognitive Processes, Academic Rationalism, Personal Relevance, Social Adaptation and Social Reconstruction, and Curriculum as Technology; see more at Instruction has traditionally focused on the teacher. Then learning is a focus on the learner. In some ways you can see it as an evolution. First you develop and define knowledge, then you try to give that someone, but the most important think is how they learning it. Learning sciences starts with learning and then influences instruction and curriculum. Jim Kaput is a great example. His work attempted to push calculus down into first year high school; transforming the high school math curriculum. His rationale was a learning one. Talk to Seymour Papert’s student and they will tell you about his thought experiment about studying instruction and learning of the mathematics of Roman Numerals. One of the things I talked about in the workshop Mark mentioned is how unique CS is as a field. There is such fluidity, flexibility, and different levels of abstractions that is PROFOUNDLY different than most any other science. Because of this I think the marriage of CS and LS could lead to exciting outcomes. At least I hope it will.

  • 27. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 11, 2014 at 1:08 pm

    “Learning Sciences” has an unfortunate grammatical ambiguity that makes it a very poor choice for the name of a course or a field. Of the names mentioned only “Learning and Practice in Computing” seemed reasonable to me, and it sounds more like a sociological study of software engineering and management than like research into learning and teaching.

    Quite frankly, I think that any attempt to rename CS education research is going to look like the practice of changing euphemisms every few years to avoid stigma—it doesn’t work and just looks silly after the first few attempts.

    The only way to raise respect for a field (which is what this is about) is to produce some really good results that catch people’s attention. Changing the name of the field (like math changing “abstract nonsense” to “category theory”) really has very little effect.

    • 28. Mark Guzdial  |  April 11, 2014 at 2:07 pm

      I don’t think that it’s about changing euphemisms. I also think it’s about changing focus. When a new PhD labels him or herself “CS Education Research,” then everything “education” falls under the purview, from curriculum to teacher prep to K-12 public policy. When a new PhD labels him or herself as a learning scientist who works in computing, then there is a connection to respected literature (Journal of the Learning Sciences has one of the highest impact ratings in all of social science) and conferences (ICLS, CSCL). The work is clearly about applying respected methods to understanding how people learn computer science. Not all of education falls under the learning science name. But what’s most important is that there are computer science departments who have hired learning scientists. Ben Shapiro at Tufts is definitely one of these — a learning scientist who works in computing. That’s a model that we can grow within CS departments. Or so we predicted at the meeting.

  • 29.  |  April 11, 2014 at 2:57 pm

    In Germany the field is called didactics of computing (Didaktik der Informatik). But I think that it’s not the same as computing education research because it is focused on the development of courses for secondary school. And maybe it’s too narrow, too. There are many aspects that I think are relevant but not addressed by that name either. I don’t think we should drop the “CS” or “Computing” (or “Informatics”) in the name. But instead of naming it a special kind of education (or ed research or didactics) what seems to me to tell only one half of the story, you can call it e.g. “education and computing”. For me — in German — it could be “pedagogical informatics” which includes aspects of didactics of informatics, e-learning, learning analytics etc. It would be a special kind of computing science (or informatics).

  • 30. Alan Fekete  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:32 am

    CSEd (under that name or a variant) is doing ok as a visible research strength in several research-focused Australian universities; see for example the web page for Adelaide’s “CS Education research group” or Monash’s “Computing Education Research Group”

    I think the first step to building respect is to differentiate being a CSEd researcher from being a good teacher – everyone in a CS department is a CS educator, but the CSEd researcher also measures the learning process and evaluates their innovations, and publishes about it. It is like the difference between a farmer and an agriculture researcher. Also throw in lots of references to Boyer’s model of scholarships

    However to be honest, the key step that helped in Australia was getting people who had already an established reputation as a researcher in a traditional field and having them put a lot of focus on CSEd reserach, and publicize that aspect of their work. For example, John Rosenberg was a full professor and department chair at a highly respected university, and he had an international reputation in persistent systems research. When John started to work with his student Mik Kolling on Blue (later BlueJ), that got good visibility.

    I also don’t understand Mark’s desire to separate research about how people learn computing from helping them learn it better. In Software Engineering (a very well established field) there is a small subfield of empirical SE, that studies how programs are written, and a much larger percentage of the researchers focus on innovations (tools, processes, whatever) that can improve the way developers work.

    • 31. Mark Guzdial  |  April 12, 2014 at 9:47 am

      I agree that the Australians value CS Ed research more than the US — I’ve written about that before.

      As it was explained to me at the workshop, one of the more significant barriers to the progress of Engineering Education Research is that the EER departments that have been established were explicitly created to support the first year of Engineering education at their institutions. Whenever any new study is proposed, the first question that’s asked is, “Does this help with first year Engineering?” OF COURSE, we hope that research into how people should learn computing should improve people’s learning. But you don’t want to limit research to just what informs the current curriculum, teaching, and student body. If we define the field as studying how people learn computing, that can be anywhere and any people (from Brian Dorn’s graphic designers and Michael Horn’s astrophysicists, to K-12 students and teachers).

      • 32. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 12, 2014 at 2:33 pm

        So, from this, it seems that your objection with the comparison to EER is not about the name in and of itself; rather, it is an objection to the methods and aims of EER programs. As such, I get the sense that your (very legitimate) objection to the name CS Ed Research is that it might create the impression that the fields are parallels of each other in practice. While I can see why that’s a problem, I’m not convinced that a different name will be sufficient to overcome the mistaken conflation. I think the solution is a change of culture, rather than a change of name. Having said that, words do have the power to shape ideas. So perhaps a name change can be a step toward culture change. My instinct, though, is skepticism.

  • 33. Jana Markowitz  |  April 12, 2014 at 8:42 am

    As a name for the field what about, “Teaching Computing Concepts Research” or to be more inclusive of the areas you mention doing research in, ” Teaching/Learning/Using Computing Concepts Research.” I find the simpler and more direct a name is, the less confusing (especially to those not in the field.)

    • 34. Mark Guzdial  |  April 12, 2014 at 10:34 am

      Why would we limit the research just to teaching? What about Barb’s work studying AP data to explore who’s taking CS, or Lijun Ni’s work on what influences teacher’s sense of identity, or Allison Elliott Tew’s work on developing learning assessments? A definition of the field as being research on teaching cuts out way too much.

    • 35. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 12, 2014 at 11:47 am

      I have some difficulty parsing “teaching computing concepts research”. What modifies what? “Teaching” can either be a gerund and the head of the noun phrase, or it can be a modifier for “computing” or for “concepts”. In any case it is much harder to figure out than “CS education research”. I still don’t see the point of changing the name of the field—those who respect the field will not have their respect increased by a gratuitous name change, and neither will those who don’t.

      • 36. Jana Markowitz  |  April 12, 2014 at 12:28 pm

        That’s ok that you have problems with the name I suggested. But I have problems with any name including “computational” – because we non-academics think that means “math” not “computers.” So how about something mind-numbingly simple – “Research on How to Teach, Learn and Use Computers?”

        But whatever you call it, please make it something non-academics can fathom. We would like to contribute (and read the relevant articles), we just have no idea what you are talking about most of the time. However, all of us (us being computing practitioners, consultants and users) think teaching young people (K-12) computer/computing concepts is extremely important and not currently being done in a systematic or effective way.

        • 37. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 12, 2014 at 12:56 pm

          I agree that many academic fields have incomprehensible or misleading names. The field I’m in currently goes by two different names: “bioinformatics” and “computational biology”, each of which carries some misleading baggage. But each time a new name is added, more confusion results, as people expect different names to mean different things. If Mark succeeds in getting a new name for what he studies, then people will be wondering what the difference is between that field and “CS education research” (if they pay any attention at all, that is).

  • 38. Rob St. Amant  |  April 12, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    Susanne Hambrusch of Purdue offered a thought experiment that brought it home for me…

    I’m not entirely convinced by the thought experiment. I looked at a random sample (tiny and biased) of Physics Education Research groups in physics departments:

    All of them have a sidebar labeled “Research” or “Areas of Research”, and underneath “Physics Education” or “Physics Education Research”. I imagine the same could be found for Mathematics Education groups in math departments.

    I think it’s too bad that “CS Education Research” doesn’t seem to work. I can’t think of any better name. (Speaking as an HCI and not a CSEd person, I’m surprised HCI people wouldn’t be more welcoming of an integration. Maybe it’s a concern about spreading HCI too thinly.)

  • 39. Saad Farooq  |  April 12, 2014 at 7:36 pm

    How about using an acronym to avoid the conflicts between meanings? I think any acronym beyond three letters carries more meaning than the sum of it’s components as long as it sounds ‘wordy’ enough (CSCL for example, doesn’t do a good job of it, STEM does and does anyone even remember what LASER actually stood for)
    It would be up to the community to make sure they provide that meaning appropriately.
    I wish I was creative enough to suggest some good ones but I think something like PERCS (read perks, Practice and Education Research in the Computational Sciences) might work.
    Notice how the CS (Computational Sciences) term allows us to be firmly placed in computer science while (hopefully) appearing less distant from mathematics and learning sciences people.

    • 40. Mark Guzdial  |  April 13, 2014 at 9:48 am

      PERCS is nice!

      I joked about a three-letter-name in one of the breakout groups I was in. I wrote a “C,” an “S,” and an “L” as vertices of a triangle, then drew a big circle around them, then announced, “That’s it!” Computation/computer, Science(s), and Learning — traverse it in any order you’d like. Then we started considering whether we could just design an unpronounceable glyph, and be known as “The field/discipline formerly known as CS Education Research.” 🙂

      • 41. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 13, 2014 at 9:55 am

        That would make it a prince among fields.

  • 42. Austin Cory Bart  |  April 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    I’m getting a PhD in Computer Science with a certification in Learning Sciences, so this really hits home to me. I’ve tried “Computer and Learning Sciences”, but I’m afraid that people think I’m in Machine Learning. Sometimes I put “Digital Education” and then explicitly break it into “Computer Science Education” and “Learning Sciences” (because Learning Sciences likes to talk about Digitally Mediated Learning, which I feel is one of my research interests too). I don’t think any of the things you suggested in the article were quite right, but I liked the idea mentioned in the comments of creating a meaningful acronym that contains all the important elements (pedagogy, learning, assessment, administration?). I hope it’s something that will keep being discussed. Names are critically important, because they’ll always invoke certain images and biases in our minds, and those first impressions will stick with us.

    Perhaps a way to get started is to start drawing a diagram listing everything “inside” CS Education research and everything outside, logically clustering things into related categories, and then building an acronym from the top-level clusters?

    • 43. davidk6  |  April 13, 2014 at 1:09 pm

      I understand the desire to come up with a name, but I think that the issue brought up by Shriram is far more important, viz.: Will a (technology) research-oriented university hire and award tenure to a PhD whose thesis and follow-up work is mostly/exclusively on CS Ed Research?

      In this regard — I honestly have no idea what the answer is — Mark, have your students who have done CS Ed Research for their PhDs been given tenure track positions in CS departments? How about others whose theses have been in this field?

      My suspicion is that, these days, the only way to do CS Ed Research over a career is to get tenure for doing research in a more traditional field and to turn to CS Ed Research once tenure has been awarded.

      • 44. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 13, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        Some of us here resemble that remark. (-:

      • 45. Mark Guzdial  |  April 13, 2014 at 1:49 pm

        People in tenure-track positions in CS departments who started out in CS Ed (from their PhD) include Ben Shapiro at Tufts, Brian Dorn at U. Nebraska-Omaha, and Mike Hewner at Rose-Hulman. Oh, and me. 🙂

        • 46. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 13, 2014 at 3:06 pm

          The day the discipline will have arrived is when people are hired into regular CS positions. Just like HCI people no longer need to be hired into psych or weird institutes or whatever, but just in plain ol’ fashioned CS positions, “stealing” a slot away from AI or compilers and the like. If you want a criterion, let’s say “stealing a slot away from a subject in which multiple people have won Turing Awards” (which are essentially indicative of the distribution of work in the early days of CS, and hence reflect the most mature sub-areas).

          • 47. davidk6  |  April 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm

            That’s exactly the point of my question. I wonder how many new CS Ed Research PhDs have not been able to get tenure track positions in CS departments.

        • 48. shriramkrishnamurthi  |  April 13, 2014 at 3:07 pm

          PS: I thought Hal Abelson is tenured.

          • 49. davidk6  |  April 13, 2014 at 3:20 pm

            My recollection is that he was tenured for technical CS research and then started spending a good deal of time on CS Ed. (Has he done CS Ed RESEARCH?)

  • […] Tagged: computing education research, public policy Computing Education Blog […]

  • 51. Raymond Lister  |  April 13, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    As I read down the almost 50 postings to this thread, I don’t recognize many names as people who are active in CER (with Mark as an obvious exception). There’s always a lot of talk about the indifference to CER among computing academics, but I think CER’s most dangerous enemies are people who are interested in education, who want to start a new research community, with themselves at its center, controlling the funding. This is just a stock standard academic turf war.

    • 52. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 14, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Ouch, thanks for the ad hominem. What exactly does skepticism about a name change have to do with controlling funding?

      As for the commenters, for what it’s worth, I count 15 names, including Mark. Those others include Emmanuel (Bootstrap), Shriram (Bootstrap and Racket), Detlef (CER publications), and gasstationwithoutpumps (I think Mark has referred to him as Kevin, but I’m not sure who he is), who (with Mark) account for 31 of the 48 posts before yours. I consider all 4 of those authors to be active in CER, and they all seem skeptical that a name change will really solve the problem. How is that a turf war?

      While I can’t speak for the other names that you don’t recognize, I do have some work that I am hoping to submit to venues like ICER eventually. So, please, in the future, do not blithely dismiss the points others make solely because they haven’t (yet) published work in the area.

      • 53. Raymond Lister  |  April 14, 2014 at 11:46 am

        You say “ouch”. I’ve worked very hard in CER for some years. I can also feel pain, when outsiders talk about my field as having somehow failed.

        Apart from Mark, I don’t recognize any of the names as being active within CER. CER is a specific research community. I’m sure all of you have an interest in computing education — given what’s being discussed, of course you are interested — but you are not active within CER, apart from Mark.

        As for blithely dismissing the points others make “solely because they haven’t (yet) published work in the area”. Building on the thread’s partial theme of comparing education to other aspects of CS research, if someone wandered into AI, for example, and started suggesting name changes to the area, without some sort of track record in AI, they’d receive much the same treatment as I have just dealt out. As with all research, a place at the table is earnt, and is not given freely to those who “haven’t (yet) published work in the area”.

        If it’s any consolation, this will be my last post on this unfortunate thread.

        • 54. Mark Guzdial  |  April 14, 2014 at 12:22 pm

          Though not all the responders are in CER, I did explicitly (at the end of my post) request advice and response to the names, and I value the comments. The insights generated here have been useful to my thinking (at least) about the naming issues. We need to have a name that CER members value and that outsiders understand.

        • 55. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

          “I can also feel pain, when outsiders talk about my field as having somehow failed.” Honestly, I have no idea where you are coming from with this comment; if anyone did make such a comment, I could understand your scorn. However, I do not see a single comment here that comes anywhere near suggesting that CER has failed. (Mark did make a comment about EER failing, but nothing about CER.)

          As for earning a place at the table, I was simply voicing my opinion of whether or not I thought a name change would make CER more reputable from the perspective of CS departments. I was not the one suggesting a name change, nor was I making any assertion about anything related to CER. Yes, I am quite aware that you have been working in the field for a long time; I’ve read (and enjoyed) some of your papers. I would not dare to suggest that my voice should be treated with anywhere near the gravitas of yours on CER topics. But that’s not what this thread was about.

          I’m sorry that something here seems to have struck a nerve and caused you such great offense, but I do not feel that your wrath has been warranted.

      • 56. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 14, 2014 at 12:02 pm

        I’m not in CER. I am a professor teaching a variety of subjects (including some programming), so I am interested in the results of CER, but I’m not interested in doing such research myself (for one thing, decent research in education requires huge sample sizes—and I don’t teach huge classes). I follow Mark’s blog because he points to a lot of interesting results and stimulates interesting discussions, not because I regard myself as part of the CER community.

        If the CER community changes the name of the field (for good reasons or bad), it won’t affect me much, other than making their results even harder for those outside the tiny CER community to find.

        • 57. Michael S. Kirkpatrick  |  April 16, 2014 at 3:11 pm

          Ah, thanks for the clarification. I’ve wandered over to your blog a couple times and (apparently by sheer luck!) saw some of your posts related to CER work, so I assumed incorrectly that you were also working in that area. Now that I see so many circuit related posts, I definitely want to take a look at more of your posts, because that’s an area that I also like and teach.

          • 58. gasstationwithoutpumps  |  April 16, 2014 at 3:14 pm

            I welcome feedback on my applied circuits course—it has been a very time-consuming obsession creating and teaching that course, and I would love to have a community of teachers that I could share ideas with. Unfortunately, I’m not teaching the usual all-theory class, and I’ve only found one or two other people interested in discussing ideas with me.

  • 59. Cecily  |  April 14, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    My only experience with naming things is my work with the educational data mining community in its earliest days. From that, I learned a few things:
    1) If you can re-use a name and convince others, that is instant buy-in both from the people that used the name first and the people that agree to reuse the name with you. The workshops on educational data mining had a variety of convoluted names through 2005. I would suggest that perhaps one of my great contributions as chair of the 2006 ITS workshop was reusing the name from the 2005 workshop. That set us in a pattern for future reuse of the name, which helped get to the point later where there was a conference and journal.
    2) I don’t think the name really matter much unless you can succinctly differentiate what the name means. In the case of educational data mining, we were trying to distinguish ourselves from people who built systems but either did not evaluate them or did evaluation that was built into the system’s design. We were interested in experiments you could do after-system-design, with residual data.
    Hope this helps!

  • 60. Ken Hay  |  April 22, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Of you list I like:
    -Learning Sciences of Computing
    or maybe a slight addition:
    -Cognitive and Learning Sciences of Computing

    I really like the:
    -Journal of Computational Thinking and Learning.
    Thinking and learning does seem like a field, but I like the way “thinking” makes in human, at least in my mind.

    Here are a few options that seem to be capturing that spirit:
    -Computing Cognition and Learning
    -Computational Cognition and Learning
    -Cognition and Learning in Computer Science
    -Computer Science Cognition and Learning Research
    -Computer Science Cognitive and Learning Sciences
    -Cognitive and Learning Sciences Informatics


    • 61. Mark Guzdial  |  April 23, 2014 at 7:58 pm

      “Informatics” isn’t going to be a big win for getting into CS departments. “Computational Cognition and Learning” sounds like AI systems (e.g., IBM’s push into cognitive computing). “Computing Cognition and Learning” is more promising to me. If we can, I’d like to keep the social aspect — that’s why I liked the “Computational Practices and Learning.” I see a lot of great work looking at the practices of experts, the practices of learners, and the interactions between these (e.g., Michael Horn, Sally Fincher, Brian Dorn, Klara Benda). “Computer Science Cognitive and Learning Sciences” has too many sciences 🙂

  • 62. Alan Fekete  |  April 27, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    A fascinating dataset at claims that “computer education” is the main field for 51 out of 2200 faculty members of top-50 CS departments in USA (this number is not so low, considering long-established and not contentious Software Eng has 83 and Databases has 77) That may suggest there isn’t so much need to find a new name for the field?

    • 63. Mark Guzdial  |  April 28, 2014 at 8:55 am

      Alan, I think that that dataset makes Susanne’s point well. Look at the whole dataset and find the names of researchers who claim “computing education” as a focus. Then look for their research papers. For most of the people I checked, they don’t publish computing education research. They have an interest in undergraduate education or outreach, both of which are very important — but they’re not research. The name “computing education” has a meaning already, and it doesn’t represent careful and rigorous exploration of research questions.

  • […] and I had an email correspondence around the blog posts aboutrenaming the field and gaining respect for the study of how people learn and think about computation. He suggested a […]

  • […] Larry Cuban is a remarkable educational historian.  He’s written an article about why requiring coding is a bad idea, and links it to the history of Logo in the 1980’s.  I think #1 is the most important, and is similar to Seymour Papert’s “Why School Reform is Impossible” article and to Roy Pea’s concerns about requiring computing. […]

  • […] Cooper organized a series of workshops (see blog posts here and here) exploring how we might grow computing education research within computing departments. […]

  • […] and I had an email correspondence around the blog posts aboutrenaming the field and gaining respect for the study of how people learn and think about computation. He suggested a […]


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