Enhancing the professional development of teachers in Computing Science

October 14, 2022 by No Comments | Category Data, Data & Intelligence Network, Digital Scotland

Guest blog by Dr Rafael C. Cardoso, Lecturer at the School of Natural and Computing Sciences, Dr Charlaine Simpson, Senior Lecturer at the School of Education; and Dr Arabella Sinclair, Lecturer at the School of Natural and Computing Sciences, University of Aberdeen.

University of Aberdeen is a member of the Data & Intelligence Network.

Scotland is home to a thriving technology ecosystem. Maximising its potential requires an integrated campaign of action, with education at its core.

Creating more talent in programming, engineering and their adjacent disciplines is essential and the Aberdeen Computing Collaborative is part of the north-east’s response to this challenge.

A partnership between Aberdeen City Council, NEScol, Robert Gordon University and the University of Aberdeen, it aims to disseminate the recommendations from the Scottish Government-commissioned Scottish Technology Ecosystem Review and promote opportunities for professional development in teaching Computing Science (CS).

Ranked 4th in the UK for Computer Science and Information Systems, the University of Aberdeen is well positioned in this field and has been tasked with leading the conversation on upskilling secondary school teachers.

We are currently looking into past and current data about CS teachers in Aberdeen schools, as well as discussing with and collecting feedback from those that are teaching – or are interested in teaching – CS to compile options to further their professional development.

One of the key problems identified in the Review is that the secondary CS curriculum is uninspiring and should include more programming and project work. The curriculum has not adapted to recent advancements in CS and as such it does not provide an effective lead up to university curricula.

Among the missing topics are data and artificial intelligence (AI). Understanding and managing data is a central topic that permeates most of CS areas. It is one of the pillars in learning and applying AI. There is a limit to how much AI can be taught at school level due to its complexity, however introducing its concepts would make the curriculum more attractive to students and enable them to understand the current uses of AI (and its implications) in our everyday lives.

We have several courses that could provide teachers upskilling in data management and AI, ranging from our undergraduate CS programme to our MSc in AI.

During the collaborative’s launch event on 7 September 2022 we hosted a professional development workshop which was attended by 19 primary and secondary school teachers. One of the successes of the session was bringing teachers together to participate in the discussions, as they do not often have the opportunity to interact with each other to discuss career development and voice their opinions in a shared environment.

The workshop was a step towards understanding the preferences, requirements and constraints of CS schoolteachers’ professional development and was hopefully the first of many events, as feedback from participants will be used to help shape the design of future offerings.

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