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Developing computing pedagogy post-2014: a doctoral study

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As a former ICT teacher who stepped out of school to study for a doctorate in 2014, the ICT to Computing curriculum change was an obvious area of research for me. ICT teachers already in post were now teaching computing, and the expectation was that they were finding pragmatic ways to work within the new curriculum.

I undertook some in-depth case study research into how teachers across England researched and planned their lessons. Most of these planning sessions were observed via desktop-sharing in Skype, making it possible to watch and listen while a teacher located and modified resources, discussed their approaches, or grappled with subject knowledge deficits while teaching themselves a new programming technique before introducing it to their students. Lesson planning like this would normally have remained largely hidden, but the study highlighted it conceptually and methodologically as a promising area for future research. One example of this could be researching new approaches to developing programming pedagogy to track the development of pupils’ computational thinking.

I found that participating teachers demonstrated a range of practical and useful approaches to planning Computing lessons under the new PoS, and the approaches were much more focused around collaboration and communities of practice than anticipated. The way that participant teachers worked to locate, use, and modify teaching resources led me to the conclusion that the resources themselves had real potential for the sharing of pedagogical approaches. Developing teaching resources and sharing them is a way to share good practice, but it is also a way to use and share the theoretical approaches that underpin planning.

I used Shulman’s (1986, 1987) frameworks of pedagogical reasoning and Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK) in order to have a language with which to describe the pedagogical practices I observed as teachers planned lessons. One of the long-standing critiques of ICT as a subject has been that it was under-theorised and overly skills-driven. As the new Computing curriculum continues to be embedded in England, being able to ascribe shared meaning to what practitioners say and do is important, especially as some of their practices, such as lesson planning, are carried out in isolation. Subject knowledge exchange is needed, but so is pedagogical knowledge — not just what to teach, but how and why, as well as what the best teaching methods are.

Using the language of pedagogy to discuss, plan, and share resources and approaches is important for making classroom practitioners integral to building collective understanding of the professional knowledge and skills needed to shape the subject as it develops.

Next steps:

  • Choose an activity or lesson that you are confident with and share it with a peer: discuss with them how you teach the concepts and why you do it that way. A great place to do that is your local CAS community, or online via #caschat.
  • Read Elizabeth's full thesis.

About the author
Dr Elizabeth Hidson is a Senior Lecturer in Education at University of Sunderland.