Preparing Future Secondary Computer Science Educators

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Although nearly every college offers a major in computer science, many computer science teachers at the secondary level have received little formal training. This paper presents details of a project that could make a significant contribution to national efforts to improve computer science education by combining teacher education and professional development. A computer science endorsement program will prepare preservice teachers in: basic skills and concepts, programming, algorithm design, computer system components, data bases, and social issues related to computer use. A series of professional development workshops will improve the content knowledge of current teachers, enabling them to teach computer science concepts and information technology fluency.

INTRODUCTION

Strengthening the quality of teachers and teaching has been central to efforts to improve American education in recent decades. America's competitive edge in today's world depends on an educational system capable of producing young people and citizens who are well prepared in science and mathematics, including computer science.

The National Science Board (NSB) report, America's Pressing Challenge - Building a Stronger Foundation (2006), expresses concerns with the condition of U.S. pre-college education in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Science and Engineering Indicators, (2006) reinforces these continuing and growing concerns. The reports concluded that there is a need to make drastic changes within the nation's science and mathematics classrooms. If not, our nation risks raising generations of students and citizens who do not know how to think critically and make informed decisions based on technical and scientific information. The two reports recommended that our nation must devote the necessary resources to revitalize our pre-college STEM education system.

The NSB reports identified priorities for ensuring a world-class education in STEM for all Americans. The reports consistently point to the critical role of teachers in helping students to learn and achieve. Today's teachers are being called on to provide the nation's children with a highquality education and to teach in new ways. Many of the NSB recommendations focus on improving pre-college education in STEM. The following two recommendations coupled with the author's long interest in research have motivated this project:

1. Higher-education leaders should work to strengthen teacher-education programs to provide school teachers with a deeper understanding of the content of mathematics and science.

2. Teacher professional development is essential to improving teacher quality. Changes in teaching practices will occur if teachers have consistent and high-quality professional training.

BACKGROUND

Computer Science is an established discipline at the collegiate and postgraduate levels. In the United States alone, nearly every undergraduate college offers a major in computer science, and more than 100 universities offer Ph.D. programs in computer science. Together, these programs produce about 45,000 baccalaureate and 850 PhD degrees each year (Tucker, 2004). Oddly, the majority of secondary computer science teachers across the nation have received minimal or no formal training in computer science (Pontier, 2005). One important reason for this anomaly is the lack of formal computer science education programs at institutions of higher education across the nation. Another important reason is the lack of training opportunities for existing teachers. This article addresses these two reasons and highlights a planned project that aims at providing teacher education and teacher professional development experiences at Ashland University.

The planned project envisions providing significant contributions to the national efforts aiming at advancing STEM education in the USA. Toward this vision, the project contributes to the development of exemplary undergraduate computer science education by focusing on the following two related main areas:

1. …