School of Computing

Computing Education Group


All members with interests in this area are active practitioners within the mainstream of the CS curriculum, although we distinguish disciplinary-specific research from scholarly examination of practice. We aim to:

  • adopt a questioning attitude towards fundamental issues in the practice of our discipline.
  • take an evolutionary approach to our practice, informed by the results of research.
  • act as a focal resource for discussion and dissemination of best practice and new ideas.
  • provide a beacon for research based upon Kent tools, such as BlueJ and Greenfoot.
  • pro-actively collaborate with international colleagues.

The group takes as its focus the teaching and learning of computer science. Its work falls into two main areas: the design and development of tools to support novice learning of object-oriented programming, and multi-institutional – and often multi-national – investigations of educators’ approaches and attitudes to practice.

  • Kölling and Utting create environments that support novice learning of Java, and have built two world-leading systems: BlueJ, aimed at first year university students, and Greenfoot, for secondary school students; the latter is the subject of a REF impact case study. Research on resource uptake and innovation diffusion in educator communities underpins this work.
  • Fincher and D. Barnes undertake empirical, qualitative studies that investigate how, when, and with what evidence educators change their teaching practice. These studies often involve multiple sites to demonstrate general applicability.

Research Plans

The Computing Education Group’s plans extend existing work and also develop a new direction.

  • The group will extend its work in researching early programming environments to include development of a new programming interaction design, intended to make program source more readable, and program manipulation easier.
  • A new research direction will come with the collection and provision of quantitative data of programming learners within the 'Blackbox' project. This will provide a large-scale dataset (100,000s of users, 100s millions of interaction events) of Java programs created within the BlueJ programming environment. This will support data-driven research investigations at an unprecedented scale; to fully exploit this the group will collaborate with other CSEd groups..
  • The group will continue to conduct qualitative studies with educators to assess, inter alia, how such quantified knowledge may be used to advance computing education.

Recent Activities

Members of the group are pursuing a variety of activities...

  • The group hosted the HEA-ICS 10th annual conference
  • The group hosted the ICER'06 conference.
  • A major project has been collaboratively writing the book Studying Programming. This is an introduction to the terminology, techniques and culture of programming, as it might be experienced in a range of different courses in further and higher education.
  • We are involved with organizing the programmes for the annual HEA-ICS 1-day teaching of programming conferences.
  • We are actively involved with the SIGCSE and ITiCSE conferences - the group hosted the ITiCSE 2001 conference, we will be hosting ITiCSE 2013, and members have been involved in programme committees of other ITiCSE conferences. The head of the research group was a keynote speaker for the 2009 ITiCSE conference and the 2010 SIGCSE symposium.

Contact details:

  • Head of group: Sally Fincher
  • Seminar Organiser: Neil Brown
  • Web Keeper: Neil Brown

Current projects:

Projects of the research group (see the list on the right for more). A full list of research group projects can be found here.

Interested in postgraduate study?

We are actively recruiting new PhD and MSc research students to these research projects and others.



School of Computing, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NF

Enquiries: +44 (0)1227 824180 or contact us.

Last Updated: 20/03/2015