computer science education · conferences · research · teaching

Research to practice in the context of school computing education

Education researchers carry out research with the ultimate goal of improving the learning outcomes of learners. In my field, this relates to computing education in school, which is a relatively new offering compared to other more established disciplines. There is a lot to learn about how students and teachers learn and teach computing effectively. In addition, although it’s a new research field, there are a growing number of papers and studies relating to this topic. But is this new research reaching classroom practice, and do we really understand how research impacts practice at all?

This was the topic of a keynote that I recently gave at the Koli Calling 2021 conference – theoretically in Finland, but in reality online. Koli Calling is an established computing education conference that is held every November in the snow-bound hills of Koli National Park, and I was really honoured to be asked to speak there.

The talk wasn’t recorded so I’m sharing a rehearsal recording of the talk here.

It’s a pretty long talk (!), but here are the main points that I cover:

  1. Researchers, practitioners and policymakers may have different perspectives on the value of research and the type of research we should be conducting.
  2. There is some discussion about how research impacts practice and whether it can be directly transferred to practice, or whether teachers and schools may indirectly adopt research in their practice. In my talk I conclude that the latter is more likely.
  3. We can talk about knowledge mobilisation as the way that research is integrated into practice and it can take three forms: knowledge transfer, knowledge translation and knowledge transformation.
  4. I described five different approaches to knowledge mobilisation in the context of computing education:
    1. Research-informed educational programmes
    2. Research-practice partnerships
    3. Translational research
    4. Practitioner research
    5. “Flip the system”
  5. I then look at a range of projects and initiatives that I’ve been involved in, either directly or indirectly, to consider how each of them might support teachers in integrating computing education research in their practice: these are, in no particular order, the NCCE pedagogy Quick Reads, PRIMM, CAS Research, Raspberry Pi Foundation research seminars, Teaching Inquiry in Computing Education (TICE), Culturally Responsive Computing teaching guidelines for UK teachers and the NCCE Teach Computing Curriculum.
  6. I finish with a lot of questions and a call to researchers in this field to think about how their research might be integrated into practice early on in the research process.

I’m going to be thinking and writing about this some more, and I’d be really interested in any feedback and ideas for ways forward for computing education research, in particular:

Teachers:What research in computing education do we need? How can research influence your classroom practice as a computing teacher?
Researchers:How can you partner with schools and teachers so that your research is designed with knowledge transformation in mind?
Policymakers and funders:Do you understand teachers’ and researchers’ perspectives on computing education research and can you draw on this understanding to make decisions about what research to fund or encourage?

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