The changing profile of ECS teachers

March 2020


Steven McGee

The Learning Partnership

Lucia Dettori

DePaul University

Ronald I. Greenberg

Loyola University Chicago

Dale F. Reed

University of Illinois Chicago

Don Yanek

Chicago Public Schools

This study investigated patterns in the development of computational thinking and programming expertise in the context of the Exploring Computer Science (ECS) program, a high school introductory CS course and professional development program designed to foster deep engagement through equitable inquiry around CS concepts. Prior research on programming expertise has identified three general areas of development — program comprehension, program planning, and program generation. The pedagogical practices in ECS are consistent with problem solving approaches that support the development of programming expertise. The study took place in a large urban district during the 2016–17 school year with 28 ECS teachers and 1,931 students. A validated external assessment was used to measure the development of programming expertise. The results indicate that there were medium-sized, statistically significant increases from pretest to posttest, and there were no statistically significant differences by gender or race/ethnicity. After controlling for prior academic achievement, performance in the ECS course correlated with performance on the posttest. With respect to specific programming concepts, the results also provide evidence on the progression of the development of programming expertise. Students seem to develop comprehension and planning expertise prior to expertise in program generation. In addition, students seem to develop expertise with concrete tasks prior to abstract tasks.

This study compares the characteristics and professional development (PD) experiences between teachers who began teaching Exploring Computer Science before and after the enactment of a CS graduation requirement in the Chicago Public Schools. The post-requirement teachers were less likely to have a CS background, but their experience in the ECS PD and their level of confidence at the end of the PD were equivalent to the early adopters.

Suggested Citation

McGee, Steven; Dettori, Lucia; Greenberg, Ronald I.; Rasmussen, Andrew M.; Reed, Dale F.; and Yanek, Don. The Changing Profile of ECS Teachers. Proceedings of the 51st ACM Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, , : 1382, 2020. Retrieved from Loyola eCommons, Computer Science: Faculty Publications and Other Works,