Building professional identity as computer science teachers: supporting high school computer science teachers through reflection and community building

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Title: Building professional identity as computer science teachers: supporting high school computer science teachers through reflection and community building
Author: Ni, Lijun
Abstract: Computing education requires qualified computing teachers. The reality is that too few high schools in the U.S. have computing/computer science teachers with formal computer science (CS) training, and many schools do not have CS teacher at all. Moreover, teacher retention rate is often low. Beginning teacher attrition rate is particularly high in secondary education. Therefore, in addition to the need for preparing new CS teachers, we also need to support those teachers we have recruited and trained to become better teachers and continue teaching CS. Teacher education literature, especially teacher identity theory, suggests that a strong sense of teacher identity is a major indicator or feature of committed, qualified teachers. However, under the current educational system in the U.S., it could be challenging to establish teacher identity for high school (HS) CS teachers, e.g., due to a lack of teacher certification for CS. This thesis work centers upon understanding the sense of identity HS CS teachers hold and exploring ways of supporting their identity development through a professional development program: the Disciplinary Commons for Computing Educators (DCCE). DCCE has a major focus on promoting reflection on teaching practice and community building. With scaffolded activities such as course portfolio creation, peer review and peer observation among a group of HS CS teachers, it offers opportunities for CS teachers to explicitly reflect on and narrate their teaching, which is a central process of identity building through their participation within the community. In this thesis research, I explore the development of CS teacher identity through professional development programs. I first conducted an interview study with local HS CS teachers to understand their sense of identity and factors influencing their identity formation. I designed and enacted the professional program (DCCE) and conducted case studies with DCCE participants to understand how their participation in DCCE supported their identity development as a CS teacher. Overall,I found that these CS teachers held different teacher identities with varied features related to their motivation and commitment in teaching CS. I identified four concrete factors that contributed to these teachers' sense of professional identity as a CS teacher. I addressed some of these issues for CS teachers' identity development (especially the issue of lacking community) through offering professional development opportunities with a major focus on teacher reflection and community building. Results from this work indicate a potential model of supporting CS identity development, mapping the characteristics of the professional development program with particular facets of CS teacher identity. This work offers further understanding of the unique challenges that current CS teachers are facing in their CS teaching, as well as the challenges of preparing and supporting CS teachers. My findings also suggest guidelines for teacher education and professional development program design and implementation for building committed, qualified CS teachers in ways that promote the development of CS teacher identity.
Type: Dissertation
Date: 2011-11-14
Publisher: Georgia Institute of Technology
Subject: Community building
Computer science teachers
Professional development
Teacher identity
Computer science
Computer science Study and teaching
Computers Study and teaching
Department: Computing
Advisor: Committee Chair: Mark Guzdial; Committee Member: Amy Bruckman; Committee Member: Barbara J. Ericson; Committee Member: Janet L. Kolodner; Committee Member: Joanna Goode
Degree: PhD

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