Posted by Dr. Sue Sentance on May 03, 2022

Stock image of a teacher and student at a computer
I was delighted and honoured to be asked to deliver the pedagogy keynote at CSTA in July 2022. It’s a great privilege to be able to speak to so many teachers with a shared passion for teaching computer science.

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I was delighted and honoured to be asked to deliver the pedagogy keynote at CSTA in July 2022. It’s a great privilege to be able to speak to so many teachers with a shared passion for teaching computer science. I’m looking forward to sharing some of the work we’ve been doing in England with you all, and to hear more about how CS teaching is going in the USA. Plus I’m really excited to be travelling again so a trip to Chicago is definitely a highlight of my year! 

Why pedagogy matters

So why talk about pedagogy? I’m not in the classroom anymore but when I was a school computing teacher myself it wasn’t honestly a word that I used very often or thought about. But I was applying it all the time, without even thinking about it. Pedagogy means “the method and practice of teaching”. Teachers of every subject use their pedagogical knowledge and skills day in and day out to support their students, and develop a toolkit of strategies through experience that they can draw on, to know what works for which children, which topic, and even what time of day (I remember my Friday afternoon classes!). When that subject is new to you, it’s really important to be aware of approaches to take to support children, which is why pedagogy matters.
Caption: A young boy learning computer science. 

What’s been happening in England?

In England we have a mandatory national curriculum for all pupils aged 5-16 which has been in place since 2014. In 2018 the UK government funded the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE), an extensive professional development initiative for England, which included the development of comprehensive resources for teachers. The Raspberry Pi Foundation is one of three organisations running the NCCE initiative, and has been responsible, amongst other things, for these aspects:
  • a 500-hour free curriculum from 5-16, the Teach Computing Curriculum
  • > 30 free online PD courses for teachers
  • a platform for students aged 14-18 and their teachers, Isaac Computer Science
  • research into gender disparity in computing
  • a series of pedagogy outputs focusing on how we teach computing
Regardless of where you are in the world you can access these resources and the curriculum materials can be adapted to suit your needs.  In my keynote I’m focusing on the pedagogy side of our work, so here I thought it might be interesting to share how that came about.

So how do I teach computing?

Initially, our work on pedagogy for the computing classroom sprung from an apparent disconnect between research on approaches to teaching programming and the actual resources (or lack of them) that teachers had available to actually teach computing in the classroom. Until quite recently, nearly all research on teaching programming was carried out in a higher education setting, and school teachers were faced with the prospect of teaching a relatively new subject that they hadn’t learned in school themselves, with no guidance on what approaches really worked. As little as five years ago, there were dozens of courses for teachers in Python or Scratch programming, of course really important, but the questions about how to teach were simply not being addressed. So our desire was to draw on research that was available, translate it into useful guidance for teachers and embed it in classroom materials, and also to think beyond programming to all areas of computing in our curriculum.

The work we’ve been doing has two strands: firstly, developing a set of pedagogical principles that are useful for teachers, resource developers and those involved in teacher education, and secondly to be able to share teachers’ experiences of teaching computing and relevant research in an accessible way. 

12 pedagogical principles

In 2017 the Royal Society, an esteemed body in UK science and education, published a report on computing education called After the Reboot. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Advisory Board developing that report, and my colleague Jane Waite wrote a (long!) literature review on pedagogy in computing education to accompany that report.  Shortly after that we started work as the NCCE on creating comprehensive resources and professional development for teachers. It was clear we needed to abstract all the research we’d explored into byte-sized chunks and to make it as accessible as possible to classroom practitioners. This was a long, iterative, process, as we consulted with teachers, academics, and many other stakeholders on what a set of principles might look like, while at the same time getting feedback from teachers on the resources we were developing. After around two years of working on this, we arrived at the 12 pedagogical principles that are shared in the Hello World Big Book of Computing Pedagogy and on the Teach Computing website. Accompanying these principles, we’ve also just shared a review of the research on programming in an accessible form, which offers a much longer read for those who want to go into some of the research in more detail.  I’ll be sharing the principles in my keynote.
Caption: The 12 pedagogical principles for teaching computing

A range of pedagogy outputs

As well as whittling down hundreds of papers and years of classroom experience into 12 principles, we have also been developing a range of different pedagogy resources:
  • Hello World is a teacher-facing magazine that has been published four times a year since 2017. Many of the authors are teachers and we are always looking for more authors!
  • We make podcasts for teachers about the teaching of computing. You can listen to the NCCE’s Teach Computing podcast and our current Hello World podcast.
  • We produce Quick Reads, which are 2-page summaries that give a neat summary of a topic related to pedagogy. These topics include PRIMM, cognitive load, pair programming, etc.
  • We have a newsletter called Research Bytes that keeps teachers in touch with research that’s relevant to the classroom.
  • And as well as pedagogy, we focus on progression, with our curriculum materials being underpinned by learning graphs showing visually how learners progress through the material.
All this work by the NCCE and Raspberry Pi Foundation is available for free. We’ve worked with many, many teachers, and most of our content writers are former computing teachers. The feedback we’ve received has really helped to improve our work, and we’d love your feedback too!
Looking forward to seeing you in July!