ED Faculty Make Advances in Comp. Sci. Instruction

As a part of a major research university, situated within the Graduate School of Education, ATDP is committed to contributing to and learning from educational research. This fall, we are proud to congratulate Elementary Division instructor Dr. Colleen Lewis on earning the Chair’s Award for her contribution to the International Computer Science Education Conference in Auckland, New Zealand. Colleen has been teaching with us since 2009, and her goal each summer is not only to teach her students but to learn from them—her research at ATDP has yielded four publications that will help inform computer science teaching all over the world.

Students in Creating Music, Movies, and Games with Computers, Elementary Division 2012

The course Colleen co-teaches at ATDP, Creating Music, Movies, and Games with Computers, has been one of our most popular fifth grade offerings for the past few years.  Students are excited to see a programming course available at the elementary level, and they have proven more than ready to take it on. Beyond that, Colleen reminds us:

“Unlike math, history, and English, computer science is a very new field and we are only beginning to establish common and effective teaching practices. Therefore, we know relatively little about learning computer science, but there is great need to prepare students for careers in computer science. The field of computer science is booming and is likely to continue to do so.”

Fortunately, instructors like Colleen and her co-teacher and current research collaborator, Niral Shah, are eager to meet this growing need. Colleen’s award-winning paper is based upon data collected during ATDP’s 2009 Elementary Division. It explores ATDP students’ process of debugging, or identifying and solving problems within their code, while they learn a computer programming language called Scratch. Future work in this area may inform teachers’ decisions about how to direct students in order to facilitate the debugging (and therefore the learning) process.

Niral Shah and student, Elementary Divison 2012

In the summer of 2012, co-instructors Colleen and Niral designed teaching practices in Creating Music, Movies, and Games with Computers in a focused attempt to (a) make content equally accessible to all of their fifth graders and (b) give students equal opportunities to develop positive beliefs about their computer science ability. “Computer science is infrequently taught in middle schools or even high schools so ATDP is an opportunity for these students to be exposed the field […] and see that they could be successful in computer science,” says Colleen. Analysis of this focused effort will help Colleen and Niral to share data about its effectiveness with other computer science instructors.

Colleen Lewis has recently joined the faculty at Harvey Mudd College, and she and Niral Shah intend to continue their excellent teaching and research at ATDP next summer. Research at ATDP not only allows us to provide the best instruction we can to ATDP students each summer, it allows the whole ATDP community, including researchers, teachers, students, and families, to take part in contributions to education at large. We express our deepest thanks to each of these groups for continuing to pursue effective and meaningful teaching and learning.

More on Research at ATDP