Monday, 11 March 2013

B6: Programming and trainee teachers: Approaches and opinions

Miles Berry
Roehampton Institute, UK

Of late, education policy in England has advocated an increased focus on programming and other aspects of computer science in schools' ICT curricula in both primary and secondary phases. This has been accompanied by a similar shift in focus in secondary initial teacher training, with funding now for computing or computer science courses rather than ICT courses, and a list of entry requirements focussing on candidates knowledge of computer science.

Many see this change as representing a particular challenge for both teachers' subject knowledge and their subject pedagogy: those entering the profession as primary school teachers are now to be expected to teach curriculum content which it is unlikely that they themselves were taught at school. The paper includes some analysis of trainees' self-reported prior experience of programming.

The University of Roehampton's primary teacher training courses have long had a significant computing element for specialist students. In recent years moved from Logo to Scratch and BYOB Scratch as teaching languages, with further aspects of computer science introduced for final year undergraduates. Generalist ICT modules have evolved to include some experience of programming, HTML development and other aspects of computer science for all trainees. The paper includes examples of module content on these themes, together with examples and analysis of trainees' practical work.

Unsurprisingly, there is some variety in trainees response to these tasks, and the views they form of the place of computer science on the primary curriculum. A qualitative analysis of a sample of trainees' reflective blog posts about both practical programming and the broader policy context is presented.

The paper concludes with recommendations, drawn from this data, for both initial teacher training and continuing professional development for primary teachers.

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