High School CS Teacher’s Experience like University CS Teacher’s: “Code Shock”

April 9, 2018 at 7:00 am 4 comments

Jeff Yearout has been teaching for over 25 years, and is just in his second year of teaching CS.  His concerns in his blog echo many of the same ones that I hear from higher-education CS teachers, e.g., dealing with the wide variance of students, and getting all students to engage around code (pseudo or otherwise).

I think one of the hardest things to manage in designing a curriculum is how to dial the difficulty up at a proper pace for the “center mass” of the class skill level. And in this new curriculum from PLTW this particular unit starts out manageable, but suddenly shoots up rapidly, thus the “code shock” mentioned above. I also have the challenge of having a lot of kids in class who simply don’t want to interact in class when, for instance, I’m working through pseudocode on the board.

From “Teaching CS is Hard

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. gflint  |  April 9, 2018 at 9:42 am

    Nothing new there. I have been teaching CS for 30 years and am still dealing with the issue. Designing a curriculum that works well with the middle group guarantees the computer geeks will be bored stiff and those that do not want to engage will still be un-engaged. This is where experience helps. Canned curriculum like PLTW do not have this flexibility.

  • 2. Alfred Thompson  |  April 9, 2018 at 10:15 am

    As Garth points out, many canned curriculum do not have the flexibility that teachers often need. I know that for me there are various times when I have to stop, take a look at where students are, and adjust the schedule. It’s seldom in the same place in the curriculum year after year. I leave room to move things around.

    One reason I decided not to use the CS50 AP curriculum was that I felt it went from easy to hard too quickly and without enough easing students into things.

  • 3. Mr C  |  April 23, 2018 at 10:19 pm

    I have had some success with structuring most activities with graduated completion goals and making sure to include some goals that are “challenges”. The “computer geeks” tend to see that word and want to prove their chops. The middle group doesn’t always get to them, but everyone is working at their level. This is sometimes tough on morale because few students complete an activity like they are used to by ‘answering every question’. But consider: When was the last time a CS professional finished a programming project without any features left on the potential ‘todo’ list?

    From a curriculum design perspective: If the difficulty of the curriculum increases over time, why not have the difficulty increase within each activity?


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