Take 10 with... Tyne Crow

Tyne Crow gives us 10 minutes of his time to discuss his research on teachers' experiences of teaching computer programming in New Zealand schools.

1.  Describe your research topic to us in 10 words or less.

Teachers’ experiences teaching computer programming in New Zealand schools.

2.  Now explain it in everyday terms!

Digital Technologies progress outcomes were added to the Technology learning area in the New Zealand Curriculum in 2017. This made aspects of designing and developing digital technologies part of the national curriculum available to all New Zealand students at every year level.

Designing and developing algorithms that students can implement in a programming language are part of the progress outcomes at later year levels but the curriculum content is designed to be integrated into the Technology learning area and the wider New Zealand Curriculum.

I am interested in talking to teachers to find out their experiences integrating the new content into the learning experiences they offer their students.

3.  What are some of the day-to-day research activities you carry out?

Currently, I am interviewing teachers to hear from them about their experiences integrating programming into their teaching. I will be doing thematic analysis of the interviews to generate knowledge about teachers’ experiences integrating programming into the wider curriculum.

4.  What do you enjoy most about your research?

I was a teacher myself for more than 10 years and I spent several years teaching the NCEA Digital Technologies standards at high school level before Digital Technologies was integrated into the wider New Zealand Curriculum. I feel that there is a gap in knowledge relating to the range of ways this exciting new curriculum content is being integrated into teachers’ wider programmes of teaching and learning.

5.  Tell us something that has surprised you in the course of your research.

I am always pleasantly surprised by all of the new and exciting approaches teachers are developing to engage their students. I am fairly familiar with a wide range of commonly used resources available but there are so many amazing resources and approaches that I learn about by talking to teachers about what they find useful for their students.  

6.  How have you approached any challenges you’ve faced in your research?

Choosing a focus and methodology for my research has been one of the biggest challenges. I have been torn between quantitative and qualitative research at many stages of my research. It often feels like qualitative research is relatively less common within computer science education and the wider field of computer science. This can make me feel less confident about my approach as much of the existing literature is quite different in nature.

However, I feel quite strongly that if I constrain my focus to any limited set of variables that could be quantitatively analysed, a lot of valuable knowledge relating to teachers’ experiences and what works for their students would be lost.

7.  What questions have emerged as a result?

The main focus of my research is generating knowledge about the experiences of teachers and what they find works for their students. Some of the more specific questions relate to what resources teachers find useful and why they choose certain approaches.

I am particularly interested in why teachers choose particular programming languages, programming constructs and contexts at different age levels. There are a lot of contexts that can be used to teach programming such as robotics, game development, web development or just traditional console applications with text based input and output.  

8.  What kind of impact do you hope your research will have?

I feel that the most impact is being made by the teachers who are implementing the programmes of teaching and learning. I hope that being able to generate knowledge about this in the form of published research is useful, but the real impact is being made by the teachers in the classroom.

9.  When collaborating across the faculty or University, or outside the University, who do you work with and how does it benefit your research?

Collaborating with some people in the Faculty of Education and Social Work would be very valuable at some point as there are experts in the field of technology education there. Within the New Zealand Curriculum, principles of computer science are integrated into the Technology learning area which is focused on the principles of design and innovation among other things.

At tertiary level, introductory programming is often taught in early-stage courses where programming constructs are often taught in a more decontextualised way so I think it would be valuable to make sure that I am not only engaging with peers within the field of computer science education.

10.  What one piece of advice would you give your younger, less experienced research self?

I would advise myself to consider the wider range of research approaches quite broadly and find a methodology that fits best with the more general focus of what you want to generate knowledge about.

At the start of my research, I felt like the best approach was going to be to develop and test a particular tool or intervention with a quantitative methodology. However, the more time I spent reading literature relating to previous tools and interventions that were developed for a lot of academic research in my area, the more I felt that the most valuable knowledge in my area of interest that I could generate within the scope of my research related to the tools and approaches teachers were already using.

I still feel strongly that the right tools and resources can make a big impact so I would like to do other types of research and development in the future.