Software development for interdisciplinary STEM curriculum in schools

Topic Description

A new Computing curriculum was introduced in UK schools in September 2014, focused on Computing as a discipline in its own right, building knowledge and skills incrementally from primary to secondary education. In time, it is hoped it will deliver the much needed increase in numbers of students inspired to take up Computing in academia and as a profession. However, while in primary education the curriculum is assumed to be universally taught, from key stage 3 (age 10 and above), it only concerns classes in which students have elected to study Computing.
The main focus of the Computing curriculum at its various key stages is computational thinking and first principle programming, with only a limited range of software development skills taught primarily at A level. Also, by its very nature, the curriculum does not consider how to embed teaching and learning Computing within other subjects, such as the natural sciences or the arts, in an interdisciplinary manner.
Because of these characteristics, current secondary school students who do not have a natural and early recognised predisposition for Computing are essentially excluded from developing essential software development skills. Moreover, it could be argued that this will remain a problem in the years to come as only a minority of students will elect to study Computing as a discipline in its own right for their secondary school qualifications, whether because their interest lies elsewhere or because such a study is not a prerequisite for their intended course of study at university. Yet it is easy to be convinced that many software development skills would still make a valuable contribution to their learning within other disciplines, and would provide an opportunity to speed up the process of making Computing truly relevant to the generations to come.
The aim of this research project is to investigate how to make software development relevant to secondary school students whose primary interest and background is not Computing, and the extent of software development knowledge, skills and practices should be taught in such a context. The project will focus in particular on interdisciplinary school curriculum and projects within STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) subjects for which Computing skills are becoming fundamental.

Skills Required:

Ideally you should have a degree in Computing/Software development/Computing education, possibly with a Masters level qualification or equivalent professional experience. A degree in another STEM subject would also be appropriate as long as it includes a substantial Computing component . You should have an interest in improving the school curriculum to inspire future Computing generations. You will require access to teachers, whether in schools, code clubs or other educational settings, who are willing to take part in the research. Previous experience of academic research would be advantageous.

Background Reading:

M. Armoni and J. Gal-Ezer. Early computing education: why? what? when? who? ACM Inroads, 5(4):54–59, 2014.

M. Guzdial. What’s the best way to teach computer science to beginners? Communications of the ACM, 58(2):12–13, 2015.

S. Fincher. What are we doing when we teach computing in schools? Communications of the ACM, 58(5):24–26, 2015.

P. Guo. Teaching programming the way it works outside the classroom. Communications of ACM, 56(8):10–11, 2013.

Jon G. Hall, Lucia Rapanotti (2014). The computing curriculum: what every child should know. The Conversation,

UK Gov, Department of Education (2013). National curriculum in England: computing programmes of study.

J. M. Wing. Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3):33–35, 2006.

U. Wilensky. NetLogo. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, 1999. Last accessed: June 2015.

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Dr Lucia Rapanotti


Dr Jon Hall