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Communications of the ACM


Exploring Questions and Answers in Computer Science Education

Professor Emerita Sally Fincher, the University of Kent; Professor Kathi Fisler, Brown University

As we take on the role of overseeing the area of computing education within Communications' Contributed Articles Editorial Board, we see an opportunity to expose the broader computing community to the state of knowledge in our field. No matter where you work, or what your job is, education is important; important not only in what is taught, but also how it is taught and who is taught. For example, what is known about how different groups of people learn computing? How does workplace learning differ from formal educational settings? What techniques have been shown effective for teaching or probing learners' knowledge about computing? What seemingly obvious approaches actually fail under the scrutiny of research-informed practice? Depending on different contexts, these questions will have different answers. Investigating those answers requires us to think (as individuals and as a community) about the methods that are appropriate for studying educational questions and, crucially, what problems do we most need to think about so that our education and training keeps pace with developments in CS?

We seek to explore questions such as these, to show good work in computing education, and to help those outside the field to appreciate what makes for strong contributions in computing education. Computing education research is inherently interdisciplinary, combining technical knowledge about computing with insights from cognitive science, psychology, economics, general education, up to and including the domains in which computing is applied. As such, it is a hybrid field, and this can be disorienting as meaningful results may appear in a variety of specialist research venues that many computer scientists will not read. We embrace the broader vision of Communications as a place the computing community can come to stay abreast of areas other than its own and are excited to make computing education a part of that vision.

We embrace the broader vision of Communications as a place the computing community can come to stay abreast of areas other than its own and we are excited to make computing education a part of that vision.

We seek work that has been developed over multiple papers or perspectives, rather than a single-experience result, reports of which are better suited to conference and workshop publication. We will publish articles that present and contextualize important findings from mature work that will be of interest across Communications' international community. We will publish short sequences of articles that form conversations on important educational topics, told from multiple perspectives or methodological framings. On a pragmatic level, we will provide compelling examples of the variety of forms that good computing education research takes. We hope these will provide value to those who are new to conducting, or evaluating, computing education research.

For those already working in computing education, we ask for contributions to help demonstrate the breadth of the best we have to offer in ideas, methods, and findings. For those new to computing education, we aim to provide a stimulating series of reads. We look forward to having computing education join the conversation about what is happening across the computing community.

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Sally Fincher is Professor Emerita of computer education at the University of Kent, Canterbury, U.K.

Kathi Fisler is a research professor of computer science, associate director of undergraduate studies, and co-director of Bootstrap at Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.

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