Posts tagged ‘professional development’

Does pre-service CS education reduce the costs and make more effective in-service PD? Paths to #CS4All

What we’re trying to achieve in CS education in the United States is rarely done (successfully) and hasn’t been done in several decades (see previous post on this).  We’re changing the education canon, what everyone is taught in schools.  It’s a huge effort, involving standards and frameworks, convincing principals and legislators, and developing teachers and curricula.

Right now, we’re mostly developing the teachers we need with in-service education — which is expensive.  We’re shipping around trainers, people providing professional development to existing teachers.  We’re paying travel costs (sometimes) to teachers, and stipends (sometimes) for their time.

I have argued previously that we have to move to a pre-service model, where new teachers are prepared to be CS teachers from undergraduate education.  It’s the only way to have a sustainable flow of CS teachers into the education system.  NYC is working on developing per-service programs now, because it’s a necessity for their CS education mandate.  No reform takes root in US schools without being in schools of education.

At a meeting of the Georgia CS Task Force, where talking about the high costs of in-service CS teacher education, we started wondering if the costs might be cheaper in the long-run by growing pre-service education, rather than scaling in-service.  Of course, we have to build a critical mass cohort of in-service teachers (e.g., to provide mentors for student teachers) — in many states, we’ve already done that.

Creating pre-service programs at state universities creates opportunities for in-service education that are cheaper and maybe more effective than what we’re creating today. Pre-service programs would require CS Education faculty (and likely, graduate students) at state universities.  These people are then resources.

  • First, those faculty are now offering pre-service PD, which is necessary for sustainability.
  • Regional high school and elementary school teachers could then go to the local university for in-service programs — which can be run more cheaply at the university, than at a downtown hotel or conference center with presenters shipped in from elsewhere.
  • The CS Ed faculty are there as a resource for regional high school teachers for follow-up, and the follow-up is a critical part of actually instituting new curricula.
  • Many education schools offer resources (e.g., curriculum libraries, help with teacher questions) that would be useful to CS teachers and are available locally with people who can answer questions.

Pre-service programs require more up-front costs (e.g., paying for faculty, setting up programs).  But those costs likely amortize over the lifetime of the faculty and the program.  Each individual professional development session offered by local faculty (either pre-service or in-service) is cheaper than each in-service  session created by non-local presenters/developers.  Over many years, it is likely cheaper to pay the higher up-front costs for pre-service than the long, expensive burn of in-service.

I don’t know how to figure out the cost trade-off, but it might be worthwhile for providers like and PLTW to play out the scenarios.

July 20, 2016 at 7:54 am 4 comments

Teachers Aren’t Dumb: The importance of improved teacher development

A highly recommended piece in the New York Times is linked below.  I learned a lot from it.  I didn’t know that college graduates who teach are comparable in SAT averages to other college graduates.  The information about teacher preparation programs and about how little new graduates know about teaching was surprising and fascinating.  We’re not yet at the point where we can decry CS teacher pre-service development yet (because for the most part, it exists in only a few places in the world, and almost none in the US), but these are important points to keep in mind when we do have it.

It’s true that the average SAT score of high school students who plan to become teachers is below the national average. But planning to teach doesn’t guarantee that you’ll succeed in college, pass the certification test and be hired. The median SAT score for those who actually do end up teaching is about the national mean for other college graduates. (There is some variation, depending on teaching specialty.) Teachers are smart enough, but you need more than smarts to teach well. You need to know your subject and you need to know how to help children learn it. That’s where research on American teachers raises concerns.

Source: Teachers Aren’t Dumb – The New York Times

October 23, 2015 at 7:01 am 6 comments

Google’s mistake: CS teacher PD must be on-line only

Google CS4HS program has had a big impact in computer science education in the United States.  According to the UChicago studies, a sizable percentage of all CS teacher professional development (PD) in the United States — 25% of all PD workshops were funded just by Google.

Google has changed the criteria for the 2014 offerings.  They will only fund all online courses.  Not so in Europe, where they are still funding face-to-face workshops.

This is a mistake for two reasons:

  1. We don’t know yet how to construct on-line CS teacher professional development that succeeds.  The drop-out rate for MOOCs is enormous, and teachers fall into the groups who most often do not complete, especially a CS-oriented MOOC.
  2. What we know about CS teacher PD says that you need to develop a community of practice, and you need to start it face-to-face.  CS is in a different place than most teacher PD.  Most teachers develop their sense of identity (which influences what professional groups they join, where they look for professional development, who they talk to about their classes) from their teacher certification: math teacher, reading teacher, science teacher.  Most states have no teacher certification for CS.  Lijun Ni’s work found that a community of practice was critical for establishing that sense of CS teacher identity.  How do you form it?  Many years ago, I got the chance to chat with Starr Roxanne Hiltz who did some of the earliest work with online teacher communities.  She said that it never worked when starting all online.  The teachers had to meet one another and establish rapport, and then the online component could take off.

Google can scale-up who gets “touched” by CS teacher PD, but will lose considerably in effectiveness.  I predict that the end result will be far fewer new CS teachers from the 2014 workshops than from previous incarnations of CS4HS.  I understand that Google is a company and has to control costs.  But the return on investment for this change will be drastically less — they will end up with fewer well-prepared CS teachers for their investment, not more.

Applicants must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible:

  • You must be affiliated with a college, university, technical college, community college, or an official non-profit organization
  • Your workshop must have a clear computer science focus
  • You must use Google products for content delivery
  • You must not cap enrollment

Please note:

In the US/Canada region for 2014, we will only be funding online courses (MOOCs) professional development programs

via CS4HS 2014-US/Canada.

December 20, 2013 at 1:13 am 6 comments

Benefits of Online, Face-to-Face Professional Development Similar, Study Finds

These are really exciting results.  Done well, on-line professional development is as effective as face-to-face professional development.  These results are promising for our CSLearning4U project. In particular, the benefit that Barry Fishman saw is what we were most hoping for, based on our studies with Klara Benda — it’s all about fitting into the teachers’ lives.

Of course, the devil is in how the teacher training is designed and executed. “There are no shortcuts in professional development,” Fishman stressed.

In the study, teachers who received the online professional development weren’t just plopped in front of YouTube. Instead, the group took a series of self-paced “short courses” via computer. They also interacted online with facilitators who helped them through the units and answered their questions.

Like their counterparts in the face-to-face group, the teachers were expected to become familiar with geographic information system software and how to teach it, as well as how to engage students in a hands-on, iterative learning process. Teachers in both groups had access to the same print materials and computer simulations.

Fishman and his colleagues found that teachers in the online group spent wildly varying amounts of time learning the new curriculum. One teacher cruised through the material in three hours. Another took 52 hours to digest everything. But the classroom results were largely the same.

“One of the benefits of online professional development is that it lets teachers move at their own pace,” Fishman said. “The same thing is probably going on in face-to-face [settings]. You just zone out when you’re sitting in a 40-hour workshop.”

via Benefits of Online, Face-to-Face Professional Development Similar, Study Finds – Digital Education – Education Week.

July 5, 2013 at 1:01 am 1 comment

Where to find Guzdial at SIGCSE Symposium 2013

I’ve already written a couple of SIGCSE Symposium 2013 preview posts (on the Dorn and Elliott Tew paper, and on the UCSD set of papers on Peer Instruction).  Here in my last preview post, I’ll give you a sense for what I’ll be up to.  I fly out to Denver Tuesday 5 March in the evening.

  • Wednesday (6 March 2013), I’ll be at the SIGCSE Board Meeting all day.  If I figured it right, this is my last face-to-face Board meeting — I’ve decided not to run again and I think that the new Board starts this Fall.
  • Thursday, I have no presentations, but I have the day pretty much booked meeting with people who are also going to be at SIGCSE. Should be fun!
  • Friday is over-booked.
    • At 10:45 in Governors 12, Betsy DiSalvo is presenting her paper on Glitch (that I’m a co-author on), “Workifying Games.”
    • We’re having an ECEP lunch for advisors and Experts Bureau members at noon. (I didn’t realize until this weekend that there’s a plenary on Friday at lunchtime — that’s never happened before that I can recall at the SIGCSE Symposium.)
    • At 1:45 in Ballroom E, I’m on the “Passion, Beauty, Joy, and Awe” panel — I’ve decided to try to do a live coding with sound demo, which should be exciting and (maybe) fun and (maybe) disastrous.
    • At 3:45 in Ballroom E, I’m on the Panel on MOOCs, “The Revolution will Be Televised: Perspectives on Massive Open Online Education,” with both proponents and critics. (Guess which role I’ll be playing.)
    • I’m having a dinner with student volunteers at 5 pm, then hoping to find Michael Köllig to congratulate him on his Outstanding Contribution to CS Education award.
  • Saturday is literally double-booked.
  • Sunday, I’ll be at the ACM Education Council meeting all day, then fly home at 5, getting home at 10 pm. Monday is our PhD recruiting day and teaching, so not much recovery and decompression time.

(If I miss some days of the blog in here, I hope you’ll understand.)

March 5, 2013 at 1:32 am 2 comments

Georgia proposes reducing CS in high school curriculum

Georgia’s Department of Education is revising their curricula for computer science.  You can see the existing pathway definition for “Computing” (here), and the definition of the existing first course “Computing in the Modern World” (CiMW).  CiMW is based on the CSTA Standards, and includes computing topics like data representation, Moore’s Law, algorithmic thinking, and problem solving.

The proposed new first course is linked here, as part of the now-called “Information Technology” Pathway.  It’s called “Introduction to Digital Technology.”  It does include computational thinking, but removes most of the computer science pieces.

Why are they doing this?  We are not sure — Universities have not been involved in the revision, only high school teachers and industry folks.  One theory is that the Department of Education wants to better align high school courses with jobs, so that high school students can graduate and go into the IT industry (perhaps same goal in NYC?).

I suspect that another reason for the change is the challenge of teaching teachers about CiMW topics. Teachers can’t teach everything in CiMW because (I suspect) many of them teaching the course don’t all know the content yet. Some of the high school teachers involved in the redesign told us that they were asked to use fewer computing buzzwords, because the teachers don’t know all those terms.  The teachers in this pathway are Business teachers, often with little STEM background.  Professional development budgets in Georgia have been slashed since 2007 when the Computing Pathways was launched.  It’s disappointing (if I’m right) that the decision is to reduce the scope of the curriculum, instead of helping the teachers to learn.

The new course is open for public comment (here).  If you are interested, please consider leaving your comments on the changes in the questionnaire.

Overall, this feels like the last time that Georgia un-decided to let AP CS count towards high school graduation. Two steps forward, one step back. “Constant vigilance!”

February 28, 2013 at 1:16 am 3 comments

What is the current state of high school computer science professional development? The results of the UChicago Landscape Study

I am at the meeting in Portland of all the awardees from the NSF programs in Broadening Participation in Computing (BPC-A, like ECEP), Computing Education in the 21st Century (CE21, like our CSLearning4U project), and all the funded projects related to CS10K, sponsored by NCWIT.

You may recall that I invited people to participate in the Landscape Study on the capacity of our computing community’s professional development efforts.  The results of that survey are being presented here at this meeting, and a summary is available at the URL below.

I find the results a little depressing.  The folks at UChicago who do the study compare us to professional development in Science or Mathematics, and we don’t much look like that.  We have such a long way to go.

What is the current state of high school computer science professional development?


that are available for high school computer science (CS) teachers. The primary data collection for this strand took place through a survey administered to providers of high school computer science teacher professional development (PD).

via Computer Science – Landscape Study – The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.

January 14, 2013 at 8:00 am 2 comments

Survey on Scaling K-12 Computer Science Education: Please Complete!

NSF has reached out to the education side (yay — we really need that!) to start to get a handle on what it will take to scale CS education across the US in schools.  Cameron Wilson wrote a blog post on the effort (quoted and linked below).  The University of Chicago “landscape survey” that they’re asking everyone involved in K-12 CS Education to take is here.  Please do fill it out and help U. Chicago get a picture of what’s going on now.

It’s a comprehensive survey — be sure to leave enough time for it.  The goal is to get a handle on our overall capacity to offer professional development.  So, the survey is asking for details on every offering of every professional development session across the country, including uploaded agendas (i.e., you can’t provide a URL to a webpage).  We’re still trying to understand some of the terms in the survey, e.g., an on-line component seems to imply a webinar or using a tool like Piazza outside of the face-to-face time.

Ensuring wide-spread access to rigorous and engaging K-12 computer science education is a grand challenge, and this challenge revolves around key questions: How much professional development around new curricular approaches do we need and what models are out there? How are we going to directly engage with states, school districts and teachers on these issues? What will campaigns of sustained advocacy and awareness look like that will ensure the policy environment supports reform? If we are successful in scaling, how do we sustain reform?

The University of Chicago’s Urban Education Institute (UEI) and the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education (CEMSE) are carrying out an 18-month study for ACM’s partnership to better understand the answers to these questions and the availability and nature of computer science professional development for K-12 teachers.

via All Hands on Deck! Scaling K-12 Computer Science Education | blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM.

September 17, 2012 at 10:22 am 1 comment

Best hope for CS Teacher Education is in-service, not pre-service

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I was very interested in high school computer science teacher education. I have probably talked to faculty at a dozen schools of education now.  My conclusion is that the best hope for developing more high school computer science teachers in the US is in-service, not pre-service. In education-speak, “pre-service” is before a teacher starts in the classroom, typically in undergraduate.  “In-service” teacher education might mean workshops or summer classes or on-line — it’s teacher professional development while a teacher is in the classroom.

I found only one pre-service high school CS teacher education (TE) program.  (More might exist in the US.)  In 14 years, they have had exactly 7 CS graduates. That’s a problem that I hadn’t thought about, but is obvious in hindsight.  Why should teachers want to become CS teachers?  Lijun Ni is finding a laundry list of challenges to becoming a high school CS teacher.  (Latest one that hadn’t occurred to me: A calculus teacher might take in-service TE to teach calculus better, but rarely to learn new calculus.  CS teachers have to learn a new programming language to teach every few years.  Which one is more attractive to someone who wants to focus on teaching?)  If we built it, would they come?

My best informant was David Jackson (who was my TA for educational philosophy a few decades ago) who runs a science TE program at U. Georgia. He says that the number one biggest problem that any TE program has is maintaining the relationships with teachers, schools, and principals for placing students in practicum and student teaching experiences. That raises a huge chicken-and-the-egg problem: Where are we going to get the classes to host student teachers in CS? As I understand it, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) act requires teachers to teach subjects that they are “highly qualified” for.  To become highly-qualified pre-service, you must student teach in that subject.  However, in-service, you can learn a new subject and take a new certificate, and you don’t have to do more student teaching.  David also told me that a “minor” in CS wouldn’t work in his program.  The pre-service science education program has zero elective hours in 4.5 years. There’s no room for even a single class in CS.

Our best shot for increasing the number of high school CS teachers in the US will be through in-service development activities, like Georgia’s endorsement (a certification that a teacher can earn after earning an “initial certification” as a teacher).  In-service TE has some particular challenges. The main one is that your students are full-time professionals.  You might get them face-to-face in summers, or on weekends or evenings, but they are busy.  If we are going to develop new high school CS teachers, we have to provide ways of learning computer science that involves few multi-hour marathon sessions at the keyboard.  Our main method of having students learn computer science is through a form of apprenticeship: sweat at the keyboard, and we’ll tell you if you got it right.  That’s hard for full-time professionals.  Can we do better, or at least, differently?

December 10, 2010 at 9:57 am 29 comments

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