I understand, as a model, how a researcher at a university can advance the entire field of CS Education. Less clear to me, however, are methods available to teachers in the field who do not have doctoral degrees, much less a publication history. Beyond posting on this website, what ways are available to advance the field of CS education?

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    $\begingroup$ Have you considered submitting your teaching materials to open-source teaching initiatives, to help other teachers (perhaps less experienced with programming) teach their own programming courses? $\endgroup$ Aug 14, 2017 at 17:35
  • $\begingroup$ @KevinWorkman That could make a good answer. Can you write it up with advantages of doing this. And why to use a Free / Open-Source licence. $\endgroup$ Aug 16, 2017 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @ctrl-alt-delor Done. $\endgroup$ Nov 8, 2017 at 21:52

4 Answers 4



(a) you don't need a doctorate to do research,

(b) most university faculty don't do research in CSEducation, but in CS,

(c) most conference committees don't care much about the formal credentials of those who submit papers to the conference. SIGCSE, for example, has quite a lot of work by people without doctorates.

However, what you probably do need is contact and communication with like-minded people with an interest and some writing ability.

I hope this doesn't become just a list of options, but there are quite a few.

  • Probably the most productive line for a person at a smaller institution is to try to make contacts with those writing and doing research in a field that interests you. If you express interest you might get included in their normal communication mechanism. Often people need to work remotely from colleagues, so you have no real disadvantage there. Find a paper that interests you and write to its authors to ask what they might be working on that you might contribute to.

  • If you are in an area with quite a few educators you might try to found a discussion group among teachers in similar positions. It could lead to bigger things, but you need to be able to keep up with what is going on through reading. Once established you might be able to invite a university educator to one of your meetings, spreading your contacts. You might also be able to extract an invitation visit any working groups that the University might have.

  • Try to find a way to go to either a national or one of the regional conferences of educators. You will meet a lot of people. The Consortium for Computing in Small Colleges holds a conference annually in each of the major regions of the US. I expect they will be happy to ignore the fact that you might be a secondary educator.

  • Get involved in APCS, not just as a teacher, but as a contributor. One option, if you have the time is to become an AP grader. This is an annual event in which you will work hard, but also meet a large number of people interested in CS Education, some from the Secondary Level and some from Universities.

  • One of the groups that should probably interest you is the people who write Pedagogical Patterns. These are based on experience, not research, and go through a vetting process to validate them to the community. Among other things they do is help one another write (shepherding) and a formal process of feedback at the periodic conferences (workshopping). Any pedagogical pattern you are likely to see has been re-written a dozen times with feedback from, perhaps, a dozen to twenty people. It is a vibrant community.


I don't know the answer to this but I do think there are a number of things to consider.

First, understand that education research - not CS specific - has an abysmal reputation. As far as I can tell, it's rarely reproduced or replicated while frequently being presented as the magic bullet and being as strong as having proven a math theorem.

Most of the best teachers I know hold Ed research in very low regards. Some of them have told me things like "I tried what the experts and researchers said and it doesn't work for my students nearly as well as when I ______ so I just do my thing."

So, I don't think research is the answer. CS Ed research will eventually catch up to Ed research in general and I doubt, overall, it will be any better.

In terms of policy - just as in other ed, the connected and anointed will have the real say.

Does it matter? Probably not. Do your thing. Find your network. Share what you do.

I've created courses, worked with younger teachers, blog, and hopefully inspired and taught hundreds (thousands?) of kids.

I haven't advanced CS Education as a whole but I've done a whole lot of good in my little corner of the world.

As Pete Seeger would often say quotinng Rene Dubos - "Think global, act local."

  • $\begingroup$ I often read about studies conducted without controls, or at tiny scales. But not all research is this way! With regards to research broadly, the best resource I've found is "How People Learn", which really goes through the mechanics of learning: how brains attenuate, encode information, etc. That book is really very elucidating. The other good resource is "What Works Clearinghouse", which the US DoE publishes every 10 years. It ranks research results by how strongly they are actually supported (by multiple studies, large groups, strong controls, etc). The "strongly supported" stuff is great. $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Aug 16, 2017 at 15:38
  • $\begingroup$ (continued) You will be unsurprised to hear that the "strongly supported" research is not highly prescriptive. I share your wariness about the "use this approach" commands from ON-HIGH. But bad usage doesn't invalidate the best of educational research, which really can be very good. That's what I want to contribute to :) $\endgroup$
    – Ben I.
    Aug 16, 2017 at 15:41

Have you considered submitting your teaching materials (lesson plans, homework assignments, etc) to open-source teaching initiatives? This helps less experienced teachers, as well as experienced teachers who don't have a CS background.

Search for "open source teaching materials" for a ton of results, including:

  • Open Source Teaching: This blog post lists a bunch of resources. This is meant for teachers looking for material, but you can use this to find places that are accepting materials as well.
  • Open Source Education: Another list of open source teaching resources.
  • What is open education?
  • OER Commons: OER Commons is a public digital library of open educational resources. Explore, create, and collaborate with educators around the world to improve curriculum.
  • Code.org: List of 3rd party educator resources. Scroll all the way to the bottom to read about submitting your own material.

You could also try searching for something more specific like "open source java teaching materials" if you have Java material.

  • $\begingroup$ Open Source is like Free Software, Free Software is not about price, it is software that gives you freedoms See also gnu.org/software/free-software-for-education.en.html $\endgroup$ Nov 9, 2017 at 11:24
  • $\begingroup$ @ctrl-alt-delor I don't disagree with you, but I want to make it clear that my answer is not about using free software. It's about contributing to open teaching initiatives, whose goals are to share teaching resources amongst educators. $\endgroup$ Nov 10, 2017 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ @KeviWorkman True. However even it this field, I have noticed some problems. E.g resources published with a Creative commons Non-commercial licence. This stops the resource from being used in some education situations, and can make it ambiguous in others. (Note CC NC licences are not Free or Open. see Free Software definition, and Open Source definition) While not an open licence, the philosophy of Open Source, seems to encourage this mistake. Where the philosophy of Free Software does not. This is one of the reasons I prefer the word Free. $\endgroup$ Nov 11, 2017 at 11:27
  • $\begingroup$ @ctrl-alt-delor I don't really think this is the place to debate the definition of open source software. I'm using the term "open source" to just mean the open sharing of teaching materials. $\endgroup$ Nov 13, 2017 at 3:14

You should always be researching.

I am using research in a loose way here. Just as you should always test the programs that you write, you should always test the lessons that you teach: Evaluate how you own lessons go. Then tell others about the good ones. And here is the hard part, to be un-bias, tell them about the bad ones, tell them what did not work.

Read and Promote

So much policy is based on a whim. Read research, check on the strength of the evidence (sample size, method, reproduced, statistical significance, effect size, etc) Then try it out, and promote it, as above, but also by sharing links to the evidence.

Evidence vs Emotion

Evidence is important, but people make decisions on emotion. They will first make the decision, and then try to back it up with evidence. Therefore after you have found some good research, write an article to promote it.

Instead of: “It has been shown that ???? is a good technique to engage your learners and improve out comes…”

Re-write it like this:“Do you want to make lessons more fun for you and your students, want to improve grades, and spend less time preparing lessons? Then we have something for you. ???? is …” see “Start with why” — Simon Sinek (ted talk video)


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