Thursday, January 27, 2022

What Do Computer Science Teachers Need For Professional Development

Mike Zamansky had a great post called Trends In Professional Development in CS - it's not all good. We’re still at a very interesting place in the development of computer science education.  The shortage of qualified CS teachers is becoming more acute and more and more schools and school systems attempt to expand CS education. Professional development is also growing as well As Mike reports a lot of it is from content providers who have a vested interest in promoting their content.

What do CS teachers really need for professional development? Learning about tools and established curriculum is helpful for sure. Increasingly though, we are seeing teachers without a strong CS background being asked to teach CS classes. Few would ask teachers who could not speak Spanish to teach AP Spanish but that doesn’t mean that teachers who don’t know a lot of CS aren’t asked to teach AP CS courses. Weird isn’t it?

So clearly a lot of teachers need content knowledge. Learning along with students using canned curriculum sort of works I suppose but to be that feels like everyone is going to get shortchanged.  We are starting to see more pre-service programs for CS teachers. The program Mike Zamansky is helping to build at Hunter College for example. And there is usually the option, time consuming and possibly expensive, of taking regular university CS courses. The key thing is that school systems have to be supportive (with time and money) for teachers to get this training. A week or two in the summer is not going to cut it for CS content anymore than a week or two is enough to prepare is Physics or Chemistry teacher.

The other thing CS teachers need to know is how to teach CS. Content alone isn’t enough. As someone who entered teaching with lots of CS knowledge but nothing more than having been a student in terms of how to teach. That’s not as much as some might think! Teaching CS is different from a lot of other subjects. Similar in some ways for sure but also different. Learning how to use specific curriculum is helpful and I have learned a lot from content providers over the years. We could do more. While pre-service programs are starting to come online and include this sort of thing there is still a shortage of such education for in-service teachers.

We’re starting to see more “how to teach” sessions in conferences like CSTA. The one I lead in 2020 was very well attended which suggests that there is demand. Books are starting to come out as well. Computer Science in K-12: An A-to-Z Handbook on Teaching Programming edited by Shuchi Grover is my favorite and one I recommend highly.

We still need a lot of research on how to teach computer science. That looks like it is increasing as well. That’s great especially if researchers share their results in ways that are accusable to teachers. Not all K-12 teachers have access to papers that are behind paywalls. I’m sure hoping to see more research based teaching techniques at CSTA this summer.

What do you want to see in CS teacher professional development? Who is doing it well? Any other books to recommend? Feel free to add in the comments.


Mike Zamansky said...

The nice thing is that in NYC we're quickly getting to having a critical math of knowledgeable, qualified, certified CS teachers.

My program graduated 21 last year and will graduate another 23 this June. We're hoping for an even larger cohort this summer. I'm hoping to find 50 or more qualified applicants to our program.

The really cool thing is that we've gotten tremendous support from both Google and Gotham Gives who are covering the tuition for these teachers!!!!!!

The idea is that if we can get this critical mass in quickly, then they'll be the ones running the PDS and being the mentor teachers as true pre-service masters programs start to attract candidates.

Chantal S. said...

There's a typo:

"Some exposure to it is go for programmers and computer scientists. Should it be required? Again, probably not at any depth unless there is a specific need to it..."