Higher Ed: Education Faculty

We can't achieve CS for All without Education faculty.

CS for All requires outstanding CS educators, and those educators primarily need to come from Colleges, Schools, and Departments of Education in Washington's numerous public and private universities. We need higher education to create high-quality, sustainable CS teacher certification programs to prepare the next generation of CS teachers for the state.

Who is currently teaching CS in K-12 schools?

A wide range of people are:

  • Teachers who've learned aspects of computer science independently, and are finding ways to bring it into their classroom.
  • Teachers who've pursued some degree of professional development in CS education.
  • Former software engineers who decided to pursue CS teaching instead.

Today's teachers are doing exceptional work with limited time and resources; it's up to pre-service programs to give future CS teachers the resources they need to not only be excellent teachers, but transform who is engaging in CS in schools.

What's required to prepare CS teachers well?

At the primary level, teachers need a basic introduction to core concepts of computing, and how to integrate those concepts into other subjects. Dozens of researchers are exploring methods for doing this, and deploying them into professional development. This means updating primary teacher education programs to include some amount of CS content knowledge and CS pedagogical content knowledge. Fortunately, there are numerous integration opportunities, with many alignments between NGSS and Common Core.

At the secondary level, teachers need preparation to teach excellent CS courses to diverse audiences. This requires deeper expertise in CS content knowledge, and CS pedagogical content knowledge of teaching methods, effective use of assessments, and challenges in diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice. This demands at a minimum, a sequence of CS education courses, mirroring math, science, and other subject areas.

Another opportunity for integrating CS into secondary teacher education is to integrate it into other STEM subjects. There are multiple alignments between NGSS and Washington state's CS learning standards. The National Science Foundation has funded dozens of projects exploring these integration points.

Finally, all teachers should understand underrepresentation in CS. Most students who learn CS are white and Asian boys near cities, when it should really be all youth, especially students of color and students in rural communities.

How much CS content knowledge do teachers need?

Primary teachers need some basics, while secondary teachers need enough to be able to teach an AP CS course. Fortunately, this typically amounts to a single introduction to programming class in higher education, not an entire CS degree. The state standards cover much more than this, but there is broad agreement that those standards are quite challenging for anyone to meet, even people with a CS degree.

However, in addition to an introduction to programming, pre-service teachers should also have some introduction to social and ethical issues in CS. Not only do the state standards cover these topics, but many curricula such as AP CS Principles and Exploring CS do as well.

Do we need to hire CS education faculty?

Yes. Just as math and science education demand core content-area pedagogical expertise, CS education demands this as well. Fortunately, the research community in CS education research is growing rapidly with support of the National Science Foundation, and many CS education research doctoral students with a passion for preparing teachers are graduating annually. Write Professor Amy Ko at the University of Washington for more perspective on the CS education academic job market.

How can Education faculty suprt CS for All?

Today, many Washington state CS teachers in K-12 are passionate former software engineers with little exposure to pedagogy, equity, or classrooms. We envision in a future in which all CS teachers, as well as all primary teachers, and secondary STEM teachers, are empowered to integrate computing into their teaching, just as computing is integrated into every part of society. With this broad training in CS teaching, all youth, not just white and Asian boys near cities, will understand computing and its role in society.

This vision cannot happen without Colleges, Schools, and Departments of Education preparing outstanding, equity-focused CS educators. This requires:

  • Rigorous, foundational discoveries about CS teaching and learning. This requires outstanding tenure-track faculty who do research on computer science education. They will not only advance the science of CS teaching and learning, but also help organize state, national, and international CS for All efforts and teach in pre-service programs.
  • Pre-service CS teacher education programs that prepare K-12 teachers to teach CS, aligned with Washington state standards and it's new CS endorsement. For guidance, read the national report, Priming the Computer Science Teacher Pump, on the role of education in supporting K-12 CS education.
  • Partnerships with CS departments to identify courses that serve as content requirements for the state's CS endorsement.
  • Teaching-track faculty with a passion for preparing both STEM and CS teachers to hep deliver the above.

Demand for the above is high, especially with recent state policy requiring all Washington high schools to offer opportunities to learn CS. Our state is thousands of teachers short from achieving this goal.

How can I learn more about computer science education research?

Where can I learn more?

Read the excellent Priming the Computer Science Teacher Pump, on the role of Education faculty supporting K-12 CS education. The guide is full of concrete requirements for preparing CS teachers.