Developing Teacher Agency Part 1
I was recently asked to speak at a conference in New York by Cornell Tech part of Cornell University. Diane Levitt who heads up K-12 outreach for Cornell Tech gave me the wonderful title How can we build Computational Agency for all? I realised my job as a teacher and creator of the code-it resources had been a mission to develop computational agency for my pupils and my job as a computing inspector/advisor for Hampshire and CAS Master teacher is all about developing teacher agency.
I would define pupil agency in computing as enough knowledge, understanding and practical experience of the subject that pupils are able to use it to their own ends. I think teacher agency is having enough knowledge, understanding and practical experience of the subject to be able to teach it so that pupils develop agency. I have said computing here as in the UK computing includes Computing science, information technology, digital literacy & online safety and as someone who wrote the last aim of the English national curriculum for computing I accept that pupils should develop agency in all areas.
The national curriculum for computing aims to ensure that all pupils are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology.
For this article I am going to concentrate on Computing science (CS) in primary education (K-5) as it is the newest area for teachers and it is almost entirely taught by non-specialists.
I have my own Bagge scale of teaching agency
- Computing Science?
- Dipped my toe with hour of code
- I am teaching using an open-ended programming environment
- I am adapting x resources
- I am creating my own resources
I know from experience as a trainer that every primary (K-5) teacher is capable of teaching CS to level 3 and I am always excited when teachers demonstrate a level of mastery by moving to level 4 & 5.
I am going to avoid the debate about the best way to teach computing science apart from saying that I am against methods that don’t build teacher agency. I would define those as heavily scaffolded puzzle solving exercises that teachers can place pupils in front of a screen and sit there and do some marking. In programming these can build an understanding of terminology and programming constructs but are designed to avoid the type of messy debugging that comes from open ended programming environments. Teachers with agency use resources like this for homework or to introduce a new programming concept or to watch a great explanation video or to dip into for a few weeks but they know that pupils will become tired of the limitations of this type of learning if they are saturated with it.
I always ask myself how many computational attitudes my pupils are developing through all areas of computing?
You can find out more about the chart at http://code-it.co.uk/attitudes/