Why the Software Industry Needs Computing Education Research

January 2, 2017 at 7:26 am 9 comments

Interesting argument from Amy Ko and Susanne Hambrusch about why we need more computing education research.

To fill the available jobs with skilled software developers, learners need to actually be learning. Unfortunately, recent research shows that many students simply aren’t. For example, a 2004 study conducted across seven countries and 12 universities found that even after passing college-level introductory programming courses, the majority of students could not predict the output of even basic computer programs. In some of our research on coding bootcamps, we are seeing similar trends, with students failing to learn and failing to get jobs.

If learning outcomes are as bad as these studies show, we need to be deeply concerned. Existing and new programs may be training tens of thousands of new software developers who aren’t quite good enough to get even an entry level position. This leaves the status quo of top companies fighting over top coders, leaving many jobs unfilled while they wait for more skilled developers. Worse yet, the demand for developers may be so high that they do get jobs, but write poor-quality code, putting at risk the software-based infrastructure that society increasingly needs to be robust, secure, and usable.

Source: Why the Software Industry Needs Computing Education Research | The Huffington Post

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9 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Garth  |  January 2, 2017 at 12:10 pm

    There is no denying more computing ed research is need but do we really have the time to wait for this research? It is better to do something only partially correct right now that to wait for the “better” solution? Right now CS Ed, both pre-service and in-service, are in abysmal shape. We cannot generate anywhere near the number of skilled (or even semi-skilled) CS teachers needed for K-12. CS ed for K-8 teachers can be considered as non-existent. University teacher ed programs needed to be building courses 10 years ago. Now they need to do something, even if it is a bit weak and shaky.

    • 2. Mark Guzdial  |  January 2, 2017 at 12:14 pm

      Who said anything about waiting? We never have enough science to inform all our educational choices. We always have to plow ahead with the best that we know and can do. The point of the article is to say that we have to be doing the education research. We have to agree that there’s a problem and that we ought to invest in the solution.

      • 3. gflint  |  January 2, 2017 at 6:03 pm

        Good point. I am just afraid of the “more research is needed before we do anything” mentality. Experience has taught me that usually doing anything is better than doing nothing. After 10 years of me trying to get my local university to offer a CS Ed program they came to the brilliant conclusion this year they should offer a CS Ed program. Glacial thinking.

  • 4. Matt Moore  |  January 2, 2017 at 5:19 pm

    We call it educational technology. http://www.mattmoore.net

    • 5. Mark Guzdial  |  January 2, 2017 at 5:21 pm

      Nope, not the same thing. Computing education teaches about the technology, not necessarily with the technology.

  • 6. Kelly Powers  |  January 2, 2017 at 7:36 pm

    I am not surprised to learn about the 2004 study on students not being able to predict output of basic computing programs nor to learn about the poor performance of recent bootcamp graduates. However, CS National Workshops, such as ECS, Bootstrap, K-5 Code.org 1 day PD and the NSF AP CS Principles program focus on CS content and pedagogy. These programs and practices used to develop short term PD can be built upon to prepare future teachers. The practice of inquiry based teaching, the use of journaling, the emphasis on creativity, problem solving, persistence, collaboration and communication of ideas/concepts verbally and in written form, makes me hopeful in the preparation of students to think critically, predict output from programs, develop models, analyze them, and explain why they chose a particular design/solution to a problem. Our experiences in the classroom working with students and measuring their understanding using Inquiry and writing techniques have informed me as a teacher that these techniques are necessary to develop computational thinkers and that relying on a student to simply turn in a program is insufficient in proving that the student has attained mastery of CS concepts or problem solving skills.

  • 7. chaikens  |  January 3, 2017 at 10:40 am

    What are some state of the art pointers to the question of how much should beginning students be assigned to practice predicting what code does versus writing code to do specified things?


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