Tuesday, October 25, 2022

The Computer Science Professional Development Problem

Mike Zamansky is stirring up trouble again. OK not really his intent I’m sure but people can get defensive. I have to say that I agree in principle with most of his post at Why PD doesn't work for CS

Mike lists four different types of PDs.

  • Teachers sharing practices
  • conferences and meetings that teachers choose to attend
  • PD run by content providers, that is, people selling something
  • PD required by schools and districts

It’s as good a break down as any though the fourth kind can really include any of the first three. So I will zero in on those for now. Full disclosure: I have given all three of those types of PD in my time. This includes working for a content provider, Microsoft in this case, that was more or less selling something even though the stuff I was presenting to teachers was free.

I think that these types of PD can be great things for improving a teacher’s knowledge and skills. None of them are really good for starting from scratch.

Teachers sharing practices is a wonderful thing. At least if the audience has a solid base to start. We see a lot of it in social media. Not as much on blogs as I would like but still some valuable stuff is shared on Facebook and even Twitter. I have learned a lot from teachers sharing practices. I hope I have helped some teachers as well. Short bursts of knowledge is not a foundation to start a CS teaching career on though.

Conferences are wonderful. The sessions are short, typically 45 minutes to an hour and a half. They are great for sharing and for helping teachers to build on existing knowledge or to lead them in new directions for further exploration. But one should not expect a new to CS teacher to attend a conference (or two) and expect them to be a trained teacher.

PD run by content providers are typically longer form. Usually a week, sometimes two. These can be awesome especially if they are given to educators who have prior experience For example, a teacher who has taught simple web page building attending a session of a more advanced toolset for a more advanced course. Or a teacher who is learning a new programming language who can relate it to previous knowledge. These sorts of PD can be a mixed bad of course. Some focus totally on the tool and not much of pedagogy. Others are concept focused as much a tool focused. Regardless, these can be very valuable especially when the content provider is a non-profit with goals beyond selling product.

We’re getting to an interesting point in the development of CS for All. We’re rapidly outgrowing the availability of strong technical CS educators. Qualified CS teachers are hard to find. We’re not doing students any favor by putting untrained or antiquatedly trained teachers in the classroom. Colleges and universities have been complaining about having to reteach students who were poorly taught in high school for years. Do we really want to see more of that? I think not.

We really need more long term training for CS teachers. We’re starting to see some programs and more universities are developing CS education research programs and working with schools of education. That really needs to ramp up. States have to start requiring more training for CS teachers AND put some money into making it happen.

1 comment:

Mike Zamansky said...

Well, you know if I'm not stirring up trouble, who will?