Computing Education Group: Research Interests
The research work undertaken by members of the group falls into four broad themes: Initial Learning Environments; Computer Science Education (discipline-specific pedagogy); Gender Issues in Computer Science Education; Institutional and organisational issues in education. Projects are undertaken within these themes.
Initial Learning Environments
Novice programmers need to master a range of new concepts and to develop a range of new skills whilst learning their first programming language. Research into ILEs is focussed upon the ways in which the program development environment can assist novice programmers.
- Developing appropriate mental models
- TeaCUP - a visualisation program for Java, which provides a dynamic view of the execution of fragments of programs.
Computer Science Education (discipline-specific pedagogy)
While much education research is conducted by specialists in many fields (e.g., cognitive psychology, education, sociology, etc.), little of this research is directed at the essence of computer science. The study of disciplinary-specific education covers a wide range of topics in computer science, including:
- The nature of learning processes necessary for CS
- The acquisition of specific skills, for example: programming, debugging, software and systems design
- The identification of indicators which might be predictive of ability in such specific skills
Additionally, this area necessitates consideration of appropriate methodologies for research studies, and understanding of how teachers acquire (and transfer) their knowledge of educational research and theory to enhance their practice.
Gender Issues in Computer Science Education
The number (not just the proportion) of females studying Computing-related subjects at degree level is decreasing. Girls and women are undoubtedly using technology, but it is predominantly men who are programming the computers, designing new systems, and inventing the new technology that will affect all aspects of our lives. The under-representation of women has serious consequences for a society increasingly shaped by this new technology.
- Why do the girls that choose CS do so?
- Is the gender imbalance in the classroom an issue for them?
- Is it an issue for the staff who teach them?
- Is there a difference between the code produced by female and male students?
Institutional and Organisational Issues in Education
There are many organisational and institutional issues that affect the framework within which we teach. Their impact upon the the discipline, and how they can be adapted to suit, are topics to be explored:
- Assessment patterns - How shall we assess this?
- Taxonomies of learning - can Bloom's taxonomy be adapted to be suitable for Computing?
- E-learning - what do we provide and what do the students want?
- The Bologna Process - a Computing perspective
- Differentiation in the CS classroom - the TOPS project