Posts tagged ‘teachers’
Hadi Partovi of Code.org has a blog post (see here) with data from their on-line classes. He’s making the argument that classroom teachers are super important for diversity and for student success.
Learning #1: Classrooms progress farther than students studying alone
In the graph below, the X axis is student age, the Y axis is their average progress in our courses. The blue line is students in classrooms with teachers. The red line is students studying without a classroom/teacher.
Learning #3: The ethnic backgrounds of students with teachers are impressively diverse
The data below doesn’t come from all students, because (for privacy reasons) we do not allow students to tell us their ethnic background. This chart was collected via an opt-in survey of teachers in the U.S. offering our courses, and as such is susceptible to inaccuracy. The picture it paints helps confirm our thesis that by integrating computer science into younger-aged classrooms in public schools, we can increase the diversity of students learning computer science.
The Individual Teacher versus the Educational System: What if Finland’s great teachers taught in U.S. schools?
I highly recommend the article below, for the perspective above all. The issue of “If we fix teachers, do we fix the American educational system” is discussed below and in a recent Freakonomics podcast (see link here). The Freakonomics team comes to the same conclusion as below — no, the home life is a far bigger factor than any particular teacher.
But I’m more struck by the focus on the education system more than the individual teacher in the below essay. If your focus is on the education system, then the goal shouldn’t be to identify and get rid of the “bad” teachers. In the end, that’s just one teacher in a whole system. You’re better off improving the system, by making the teachers as good as possible (e.g., with high-quality professional development, and lots of it). Develop your teachers, and the system improves itself.
The comments about Teach for America are relevant to the TEALS program, too. If we value teaching as a profession and want highly-skilled, prepared, and experienced teachers, then you don’t take newbies and make them teachers. Make them assistants, or make them para-professionals. Take a legitimate peripheral participation approach and let them help on the edges. But keep the teacher front-and-center, valuing her or him for the experience and development that she or he brings to the classroom — don’t try to replace the teacher with someone who doesn’t have that experience and preparation.
When I told Barbara Ericson about these comments, she countered that I’m assuming that (with respect to computer science) schools have these well-prepared and experienced teachers. She says that she’s seen whole districts without a single teacher with preparation as a CS teacher — but they’re teaching CS. She argues that in most schools, a TEALS professional could not be just an assistant or para-professional, because the teacher can’t adequately support the course on his or her own.
In recent years the “no excuses”’ argument has been particularly persistent in the education debate. There are those who argue that poverty is only an excuse not to insist that all schools should reach higher standards. Solution: better teachers. Then there are those who claim that schools and teachers alone cannot overcome the negative impact that poverty causes in many children’s learning in school. Solution: Elevate children out of poverty by other public policies.
For me the latter is right. In the United States today, 23 percent of children live in poor homes. In Finland, the same way to calculate child poverty would show that figure to be almost five times smaller. The United States ranked in the bottom four in the recent United Nations review on child well-being. Among 29 wealthy countries, the United States landed second from the last in child poverty and held a similarly poor position in “child life satisfaction.” Teachers alone, regardless of how effective they are, will not be able to overcome the challenges that poor children bring with them to schools everyday.
What are the Barriers and Supports to Intro CS in school? BASICS – The Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education
I’m an advisor on the BASICS project at U. Chicago — the Barriers and Supports to Introductory CS in schools. I visited them in December after our semester ended. The link below goes to a page with some of the first results of the project.
Computer Science teachers in Chicago and Washington, DC completed a questionnaire in Spring 2014 that, among other things, asked them to identify the three biggest supports for and barriers to their computer science classes. All of the teachers were using Exploring Computer Science (ECS) instructional materials.
They have links on the page referenced above to the top barriers and supports that they heard from ECS teachers in those districts. Top barrier for teachers: their own lack of self-efficacy. Top support for teachers: professional development.
I’m sure that there were a lot of outreach activities going on in Georgia, too. I wasn’t involved in those. I want to report on two points of progress in Georgia that was more at an infrastructural level.
Chris Klaus (as I mentioned in this blog previously) has gathered stakeholders in a “Georgia Coding” group to push on improving computing in Georgia. That effort bore fruit during CSedWeek. Georgia had its first “Day of Code,” but Barb and I were most excited to visit the Georgia Professional Standards Commission website on Monday to see this:
All the high school IT/CS classes in Georgia can now be taught by teachers with Mathematics or Science certifications. Previously, only Business Education and Mathematics teachers could teach AP CS, and only Business Education teachers could teach other IT/CS classes. (Even though AP CS counted as a science credit, science teachers couldn’t teach it.) Now, it’s all open. It’s much easier to teach Math and Science teachers about CS than Business Education teachers. Now, we have a much larger pool of possible teachers to recruit into CS classes. I’m grateful that Georgia House Representative Mike Dudgeon took this from the Georgia Coding group and made it happen.
On Thursday, I hosted a Transfer Summit at Georgia Tech. We had 15 attendees from 11 different institutions in the University System of Georgia, some two-year-mostly institutions and others four-year degree institutions.
The goal was to ease transfer between the schools. This was a strategy that CAITE used successfully to increase the diversity in computing programs in Massachusetts. Two year programs are much more diverse than universities (see some data here), but only about 25% of the students who want to transfer do so. Part of our strategy with ECEP is to set up these meetings where we get schools to smooth out the bumps to ease the transition.
I learned a lot about transfer at this meeting. For example, I learned that it’s often unsuccessful to have students take all their General Education requirements at the two-year institution and then transfer to the four-year institution, because that leaves just intense CS classes for the last two years — no easier classes. At some schools, the pre-requisite chains prevent students from even getting a full load of just-CS classes, since students have to pass the pre-req before they can take the follow-on class.
At the end of the meeting, we had 9 new transfer agreements in-progress. Some of the participants had come to a similar meeting last year, and they said that they were able to make more progress this year because they knew what to have ready. Wayne Summers from Columbus State actually came with a whole new agreement with Georgia Perimeter College (a two-year institution) already worked out and ready to discuss with GPC representatives. I was grateful that GPC brought three faculty to the meeting, so that they could have multiple agreements worked out in parallel.
Getting math and science teachers into high school CS classes and helping students in two-year institutions move on to bachelors degrees isn’t as flashy as the Hour of Code and programming at White House. Teacher certifications and transfer agreements are important when we move beyond the first hour and want to create pathways for students to pursue computing through graduation.
The 2014 report from Computing At School (CAS) Scotland is out on the status of computer science education nationwide (see the report here). The results are remarkable and distressing. CAS Scotland succeeded at getting computer science to be a recognized subject, with the goal of replacing the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) curriculum. However, computer science education in schools has declined dramatically. Roger McDermott, who pointed out the report to me, is wondering if the push to improve the rigor of computing in schools may have led to the decline.
Some of the key findings (all of the points below are quotes from the report):
- There has been a drop of 14% in Computing Science teachers over the last two years. Overall the number of Computing Science teachers in Scotland has gone down from 866 in 2007 to 773 in 2012 and to 663 in 2014. Low uptake, staff leaving and a need to reduce staffing were reasons given by some Local Authorities for the reduction. The number of schools without any Computing Science teachers has gone up slightly from 7.6% in 2012 (27 schools) to 12 % in 2014.
- One school mentioned that one factor was Universities don’t require Higher Computing Science as an entry requirement:
“[We] stopped offering certificate computing over ten years ago. The Head Teacher decided that with reducing staffing, low uptake by pupils and the fact that the higher was not required for further and higher education entry that certificate classes were not viable.”
- Another area of concern is the lack of Computing Science teachers. There are currently not enough Computing Science teachers to address demand. Ten local authorities out of the 32 said that they had problems recruiting Computing Science teachers.
- Many schools claim to be delivering Computing Science outcomes across the curriculum, but there is evidence of confusion with ICT skills.
- The target for PGDE Computing in Scotland (the path to becoming a CS teacher in Scotland — see this link for an explanation) this year was 25 students (with a maximum cap set at 42 places). To date, 20 offers have been accepted for courses at Glasgow and Strathclyde Universities.
The problems that CAS-Scotland is facing are quite similar to ones we’re facing the United States: Too few CS teachers, too few teachers interested in becoming CS teachers, a high drop-out rate among CS teachers (as already seen in ExploringCS), and a lack of value at the University level which influences perception at the high school level. A mandate to teach computer science in all schools doesn’t make it happen. Scotland is a smaller country which makes the problem more manageable, and they are already far ahead of the United States in terms of curriculum, teacher preparation programs, and having CS teachers in schools. (Does anyone else look wistfully at that 12% of schools not teaching CS? Only 12%?) We need to watch how Scotland solves these problems, because we might able to use their solutions.
Both sides in this debate make good points. Of course, I’m on Pat Yongpradit’s side — computing education is very important and should be in all schools. But I totally see his opponent’s position (and I’ve made similar arguments myself about why the US is not ready for mandatory CS education): it’s expensive, teachers are not well-prepared, and it’s not obvious (to schools or teachers) how computer science helps with the primary goals of literacy and numeracy.
I’m not saying that elementary students are not capable of using or even mastering code. But I believe that really teaching — not just introducing — coding is simply beyond the scope of what most K-5 schools and their students are able to do, and it’s even asking a lot of middle schools when both lab time and class time are so limited. What’s more, pushing students into the study of abstract concepts before they are developmentally ready will not make them any more prepared for the rest of the 21st century than they are now.
If you’re in the New Jersey area on Tuesday December 9:
Library & Information Science Department Guest Lecture, open to the Rutgers Community….
Dr. Mark Guzdial and Barbara Ericson
Scholarly Communication Center at Alexander Library (4th Floor lecture hall)
Tuesday, 12/9/2014, 12-1:30pm
Title: Creative Expression to Motivate Interest in Computing
Abstract: Efforts in the US to promote learning about computer science and computational thinking emphasize the vocational benefits. Research on end-user programming suggests that for every professional software developer in the United States, there are four more professionals who program as part of doing their job. Efforts in other countries (UK, Denmark, New Zealand) instead emphasize the value of computing as a rigorous discipline providing insight into our world. We offer a third motivation: computing as a powerful medium for creative expression. We have used computational media to motivate children to study computing, to go beyond thinking about “geeks” in computing. We use media computation to encourage teachers and introductory students at college. The approach draws in a different audience than we normally get in computer science The BS in Computational Media at Georgia Tech is the most gender-balanced, ABET-accredited undergraduate computing degree in the United States. We use these examples to paint a picture of using creative expression to motivate interest in computing.
- Mark Guzdial is a Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech. He is a learning scientist who focuses on computing education research. He invented the Media Computation approach to teaching introductory computing. He serves on the ACM’s Education Council, and is on the editorial boards of the “Journal of the Learning Sciences,” “ACM Transactions on Computing Education,” and “Communications of the ACM.” With his wife and colleague, Barbara Ericson, he received the 2010 ACM Karlstrom Outstanding Educator award. He was also the recipient of the 2012 IEEE Computer Society Undergraduate Teaching Award.
- Barbara Ericson is the Director of Computing Outreach and a Senior Research Scientist for the College of Computing at Georgia Tech. She has worked at Georgia Tech to increase the quantity and quality of secondary computing teachers and the quantity and diversity of computing students since 2004. She is currently also pursuing a Human-Centered Computing PhD at Georgia Tech. She has co-authored four books on Media Computation. She was the winner of the 2012 A. Richard Newton Educator Award. She has served on the CSTA’s Board of Directors, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Development Committee, and the NCWIT executive committee for the K-12 Alliance.