School of Computing

Computing Education Group: PhD Studentships

The Computing Education Research Group supervises projects in various areas of computing education, with particular focus on:

  • (software) tools for the support of learning and teaching of programming
  • educational software visualisation
  • gender issues in computing
  • computer-assisted language learning

Generally, any project within these or related areas may be supervised, and potential students are encouraged to propose their own ideas within this field. Below, we list some possible projects. These project descriptions serve both as concrete proposals and as inspiration for further project ideas. Any project can be modified or extended to suit specific interests.

Students interested in any of these projects or the field in general should email Sally Fincher, or telephone 01227 824061 for further information. You can also contact any of the members of the group directly about their areas of interest.

Focus area: Educational software tools

The increased use of modern software engineering languages and practices in introductory programming education has made the teaching and learning of programming more difficult.

Even beginners' programs written in currently used languages (such as Java) include non-trivial structure (object orientation), and require students to deal with initially difficult aspects quite early, including large class libraries, development and compilation dependencies, complex environment set-up, graphical user interfaces, team work, unit testing, and more.

Software tools can aid students and teachers to master this complexity and allow them to concentrate on the important educational lessons within the large amount of technical detail. The rise of a software engineering approach to introductory programming has made the use of good educational software tools essential.

The research interests within the Computing Education Research Group include

  • design and development of software tools
  • development of pedagogical approaches with new software tools
  • analysis of effects and effectiveness
  • investigation of student/tool interaction

Software tools may include editors, diagramming tools, development environments, debuggers, team support tools, dynamic visualisation tools, compilers, and any other software tool intended to aid the software development process.

A Non-intrusive Event Logging Architecture for BlueJ

Contact: Ian Utting

BlueJ is a Java development environment primarily used for the learning and teaching of programming.

For educational research purposes it is often desirable to collect data about user and system behaviour. Examples include investigations to identify the most common problems students have with the environment, attempts to identify misconceptions and identification of learning styles.

To support this educational research, it would be desirable if BlueJ could be instrumented to log data in a manner that is flexible, user configurable, non-intrusive (does not impact -much- on the functional behaviour of the system), and socially acceptable.

The task for this project is to identify possible data points to be collected, and then to design, implement and test such a system in the BlueJ environment.

The project will require intensive implementation in the Java Programming Language in the context of a large-ish existing system (more them 120,000 lines of code). Excellent object-oriented programming and Java skills are essential. Experience with professional development tools (Eclipse, ant, CVS, ...) are needed or has to be acquired.

Motivation and Communities of Practice

Contact: Sally Fincher

One motivation for wanting to learn is the desire to become a member of a particular community of practice. The aim of this phenomenographic project is to relate this theory to CS in terms of:

  • the apprehension and perception of industrial practice
  • student perceptions of staff as experts, and alterations in this perception over time, as their own knowledge and status increase.


  • Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave Situated Learning : Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Learning in Doing : Social, Cognitive and Computational Perspectives) Cambridge University Press, 1991 Etienne Wenger Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity Cambridge University Press, 1999
  • John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid "The Social Life of Information" Harvard Business School, 2000

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

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

Last Updated: 02/02/2018