Full Professor in the School of Computing Science. Leading on a two-year, Scottish Government funded project Professional Learning and Networking in Computing Science (PLAN C) for computing science school teachers throughout Scotland
in Learning and Teaching
Prospective PhD Students
I am or have been involved in a wide range of initiatives to develop
computing science as a rigorous academic discipline in schools in the UK
|Professional Learning and Networking in
||I am project officer on the
Professional Learning and Networking in Computing (PLAN C)
project, funded by Scottish Government and administered by BCS,
the Chartered Institute for IT. The goal is to develop a
network connecting CS teachers throughout Scotland, thus enabling
effective development and sharing of best practice, in line with
the Donaldson report. We have trained around 50 lead teachers
initially, who are now running teacher communities
in their local areas, acting as mentors to promote effective
sharing of materials and teaching experience as well as
introducing new best practice CS pedagogies developed from
research from around the world.
|Scottish Qualifications Authority
||I have worked with the SQA since 2010 on the Qualification
Design Team for the new National, Higher and Advanced Higher
qualifications, feeding in results from my and others' recent
research on curriculum and assessment techniques. In
particular, more emphasis has been placed on the core philosophy
that pupils need to be able to understand and reason about
programs. The Haggis reference language has been developed by me
jointly with Professor Greg Michaelson at Heriot Watt University
specifically to enable program code to appear in exam papers.
Professor Richard Connor at the University of Strathclyde has
developed a parser and run-time system for Haggis, found
here. Haggis has been adopted
by the SQA for use in all Computing Science qualifications for the
presentation of code.
|Education Scotland and Skills Development Scotland
||I am involved in Education Scotland's evolutionary approach to
the development of the Computing Science Broad General Education
phase of the Curriculum for Excellence. This is
collaborative work with Professor Richard Connor at Strathclyde
University. Key to this is the incorporation into BGE Levels
1 and 2 of our understanding of how computational thinking skills
can be developed in, and be of value to, all pupils. We have funding
from the Scottish Government funded Strategic Investment Plan for IT,
(administered by Skills Development Scotland) to continue this work.
|UK Forum for Computing Education
||I am the Scottish representative on UKForCE, the UK Forum for
Computing Education. This forum was set up and is
administered by the Royal Academy of Engineering as a result of
the recommendation in the Royal Society's Shutdown or
Restart? for a single voice for the needs of computing
education in the UK.
|RSE CS Exemplification Project
||I am a member of the advisory board for the Royal Society of
Edinburgh's exemplification project for computing science.
The goal of this project has been the production of high quality
teaching materials for the Curriculum for Excellence.
|Computing at School Scotland co-Chair
||I am co-chair of CAS Scotland, the teacher association for
computing science teachers across Scotland. When the PLAN C
project completes its works of developing an effective network of
computing teachers in Scotland, CAS Scotland will be the natural
coordinating body for the teacher network, further strengthening
its position as the voice for teachers in Scotland.
|Computing at School
||I have been involved in CAS since its creation by Simon Peyton
Jones in 2008, acting on the Working Group and delivering
workshops and talks at the annual CAS conference. Though
CAS, I was involved in developing recommendations for the new
English programme of study for computing.
I am currently leading a CAS working group exploring assessment issues in computer science.
|CS Education in the US
||I spent a sabbatical year in 2010-11 in the University of
California San Diego, working with Beth Simon, concentrating on
the development and evaluation of a computational thinking skills
course for all, as part of the US CS Principles
programme. The course has now been delivered to thousands of
UC San Diego students, as well as numerous high schools in the San
Diego area and further afield. The success of the course is
largely ascribed to the use of the Peer Instruction
pedagogy. We are working on the incorporation of this
discussion-oriented pedagogy into on-line formats to enable
large-scale training of teachers.
||This EPSRC funded Partnerships for Public Engagement project,
running from 2005-2009, developed a range of lesson-length
workshops to be used by computing teachers in their
classrooms. The workshops have been used by hundreds of
teachers and experienced by tens of thousands of pupils in
Scotland alone, and downloads have been recorded from more than 20
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My primary research focus is on the development of effective pedagogy for initial education in computational thinking and computing science. Furthermore, the PLAN C project offers a significant opportunity to study effective identification and sharing of pedagogical content knowledge in Computing Science.
I am, or have been, a reviewer for the Computer Science Education Journal, ACM SIGCSE Conference, ACM ITiCSE Conference, and the ACM ICER Conference.
I have been / am one of the three rolling chairs for ICER 2013, 2014
and 2015. I was lead organising chair in 2014, in Glasgow, running
from 11-13 August, with a Doctoral Consortium and Critical Research
Review immediately before and after the main conference.
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Unix, C, C++, Programming Language Design and Implementation, Compilers, Databases, Professional Skills and Issues, Persistent Programming Languages, Advanced Java Programming.
I am currently External Examiner for undergraduate programmes at the University of Dundee and Heriot Watt University.
Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching), Faculty of Information and Mathematical Sciences 2006-10.
Senior Adviser of Studies and Adviser of Studies 1999-2013
Convenor of Computing Science Learning and Teaching Committee 2000-2003
Exchange and International Students Coordinator 2000-2006
Convenor of Level 1 and Level 3 programmes at various times
Membership at various times of University committees: Senate, Learning
& Teaching, Education Policy and Strategy, Academic Standards,
External Assessor for Subject Review, London Southbank University, 2006
STEM-ED Scottish advisory group on STEM education in Scottish schools,
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It is clear that some students do not have an understanding of computational mechanisms that are so second-nature to educators that they may miss teaching them. One example of this is that computers are deterministic machines, at least at the level of an introductory course. This conflicts with a prevalent view that modern technology is magic, and "beyond my understanding". If a machine is deterministic, then it can be understood - and this realisation is a major breakthrough for some students.
It can take students a significant level of drill and practice to make
this breakthrough. One approach I developed this year, on the
basis of seeing students make this breakthrough, of discussions with
Richard Connor, and from Sorva's work on the "notional machine", makes
use of a "mechanism visualisation" sheet. The aim is to give as
simple an execution model as possible for the students, to aid in the
development of their understanding of how programs work. The sheet
is being trialled by teachers in Scotland currently, and a revised
version will appear here in due course.
As is clear from my papers, I am a devotee of Peer Instruction,
originally developed in the 90s by Mazur as a result of his finding that
his prized physics students scored poorly on the recently-introduced
Force Concept Inventory. Peer Instruction enables students to
reach deeper understandings of the material they are studying and to
correct misunderstandings. It also requires students to articulate
their understanding in discussion with other students. This seems
particularly important to me given how much new language computing
science introduces... how can you really understand a subject if you
don't have a language for it, if you can't talk about it? Students
need to practice talking about the concepts involved in taking problems
and implementing them on machines. A key starting point is the article
in the Communications of the ACM.
With others in the University, I ran the first successful study on the application of Carol Dweck's Mindset research to the Computing Science domain. The study made use of three key interventions:
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2010 HEA-ICS National Award for Teaching of Information & Computing Science in Higher Education
2006 University of Glasgow Teaching Excellence Award, Inaugural year
2006 Royal Society of Edinburgh Inspiration Award
2014 UK CAS Conference
2012 Scotlands Colleges
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I am keen to supervise students interested in two broad areas. The first is in the development of computational thinking skills; the second is in the effective sharing of teaching practice focusing on pedagogical content knowledge for computing science. The PLAN C project offers very significant opportunities to study both of these areas, with access potentially to hundreds of practising CS teachers and thousands of pupils. If you are interested in these areas, please contact me.
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