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Communications of the ACM


A Future For Computing Education Research

The Thinker and computer

Credit: Education Research Articles

One decade ago, NSF funded two efforts to create a computing education research (CER) community in the U.S. and Europe. Nicknamed "Bootstrappers" and "Scaffolders,"a these two projects helped create a CER community among existing computing faculty who had an interest in computing education. More than 40 computer science faculty became active in CER. Many publications have resulted, the ICER conference has been created and established, and many of those faculty members now hold leadership positions within the computing education community. What the Bootstrappers and Scaffolders did not focus on was growing the number of Ph.D. students in CER, and trying to establish the legitimacy of CER as a research discipline within computing departments at research-oriented schools. (It is difficult to place CER within schools of education, as computing is not a required component of primary or secondary schools.) With the exploding interest in computing education and technology, with the awareness of the challenges in computing education at the K–12 level, with NSF's recent push toward disciplinary-based education research in STEM fields,3 and with a huge growing interest in offering computer science courses via distance, NSF funded another pair of workshops. The purpose of the first summit was to allow the CER community to identify the most important research questions facing the discipline. The second summit focused on identifying and developing strategies to overcome structural impediments to supporting CER at the university level.

This column focuses on the first summit: the most important research questions facing CER. Interested researchers were invited to submit a white paper addressing key research questions likely to be faced by CER over the next five years. The accepted white papers (available from asked research questions primarily in five areas: broadening participation, computing in K–12 (primary and secondary), computing in STEM education, students and learning issues, and tools. A few papers were written at a meta-level, looking at the direction of CER and its impact, and looking more broadly at challenges facing the teaching of computing at all levels. Here, we summarize across the five research areas while highlighting the two most compelling agendas that currently look to be in contention in terms of garnering researchers' attention.


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