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CS in Schools: Developing a Sustainable Coding Programme in Australian Schools

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Digital technology is compulsory in schools in most states at most year levels in Australia. However, a recent survey of over 400 Australian schools in 2019 found that 96% have had difficulty hiring qualified technology teachers and 39% of schools have reduced the amount of technology education they offer. We have observed that there is a shortage of teachers who feel qualified to teach coding. To address this problem, we launched CS in Schools, a successful in-class professional development programme for teachers that helps schools build a robust digital technology capability in their students. Our programme matches pedagogy with content expertise , by matching a volunteer computing professional with a secondary school teacher, and helping that teacher develop their coding skills in the classroom over a six month period. This experience paper describes the approach we took in piloting our programme with 10 teachers in 8 schools who taught over 1,100 students in 2019. We also describe our current scale-up in 2020 to work with around 60 teachers, around 40 volunteers, over 25 schools, and more than 6,000 students. Our goal is to work with hundreds of schools in 2021.
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CS in Schools: Developing a Sustainable Coding Programme in
Australian Schools
Hugh E. Williams
CS in Schools, RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia
hugh@csinschools.com
Selina Williams
CS in Schools, RMIT University
Melbourne, Australia
selina@csinschools.com
Kristy Kendall
kristy@csinschools.com
Toorak College
Mount Eliza, Victoria, Australia
ABSTRACT
Digital technology is compulsory in schools in most states at most
year levels in Australia. However, a recent survey of over 400 Aus-
tralian schools in 2019 found that 96% have had difficulty hiring
qualified technology teachers and 39% of schools have reduced the
amount of technology education they offer. We have observed that
there is a shortage of teachers who feel qualified to teach coding.
To address this problem, we launched CS in Schools 1, a success-
ful in-class professional development programme for teachers that
helps schools build a robust digital technology capability in their
students. Our programme matches pedagogy with content exper-
tise, by matching a volunteer computing professional with a sec-
ondary school teacher, and helping that teacher develop their cod-
ing skills in the classroom over a six month period. This experience
paper describes the approach we took in piloting our programme
with 10 teachers in 8 schools who taught over 1,100 students in
2019. We also describe our current scale-up in 2020 to work with
around 60 teachers, around 40 volunteers, over 25 schools, and
more than 6,000 students. Our goal is to work with hundreds of
schools in 2021.
CCS CONCEPTS
Social and professional topics K-12 education.
KEYWORDS
Broadening participation; K-12 education; Teacher professional
development
ACM Reference Format:
Hugh E. Williams, Selina Williams, and Kristy Kendall. 2020. CS in Schools:
Developing a Sustainable Coding Programme in Australian Schools. In 2020
ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Educa-
tion (ITiCSE’20), June 15–19, 2020, Trondheim, Norway. ACM, New York, NY,
USA, 7 pages. https://doi.org/10.1145/3341525.3387422
Also with Melbourne Business School, The University of Melbourne.
Also with CS in Schools, RMIT University.
1https://csinschools.com
Permission to make digital or hard copies of part or all of this work for personal or
classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed
for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation
on the first page. Copyrights for third-party components of this work must be honored.
For all other uses, contact the owner/author(s).
ITiCSE ’20, June 15–19, 2020, Trondheim, Norway
© 2020 Copyright held by the owner/author(s).
ACM ISBN 978-1-4503-6874-2/20/06.
https://doi.org/10.1145/3341525.3387422
1 INTRODUCTION
There will be over 100,000 new IT jobs in Australia by 2024 and
the “highest policy priority for the digital economy is skills devel-
opment” [4]. Despite the demand, and IT being one of the highest-
paid careers, just under 6,000 students graduated from Australian
domestic IT courses in 2017. We believe a significant contributing
factor to the lack of demand is the broad absence of a high-quality
digital technology programme in schools.
Digital technology is compulsory in public and Catholic schools
in most states from K-10 in Australia. This reflects the state and
federal governments’ understanding of the importance of expos-
ing K-12 students to the fundamentals of computational thinking,
information technology, and coding. However, our empirical ob-
servation suggests that less than 5% of schools are teaching the
complete required curriculum.
A survey of more than 400 Australian schools [2] found that
96% have had difficulty hiring qualified technology teachers and
39% have reduced the amount of technology education they of-
fer. Around 30% of IT teachers are teaching out of their field of
expertise [14]. In particular, we have observed that there is a par-
ticular shortage of teachers who are qualified to teach coding. Of
course, this is not unique to Australia: most countries have chal-
lenges staffing their digital technology classes with appropriately-
qualified teachers, and most countries have unprecendented de-
mand for IT professionals.
We believe that these problems can be addressed through inten-
sive in-class professional development of classroom teachers. Our
programme helps teachers learn how to code and teach coding to
secondary students. We believe that by giving every student the
opportunity to code, we will increase the pipeline of students who
study and work in IT; of course, a future longitudinal study is the
only way to show this is true. We also believe that our approach is
broadly applicable to most countries with similar challenges.
We launched a pilot programme in 2019, with the goal of devel-
oping approaches that will scale nationally. It is designed around
the fundamental idea of bringing together a content expert from
industry with a pedagogy expert in a school to help the pedagogy
expert develop the content skills. We believe that if a significant
number of teachers can become coding experts then a sustainable
and substantial change in the education landscape is possible.
This paper is structured as follows. Section 2 discusses related
programmes and approaches to teacher professional development,
Section 3 describes our approach at CS in Schools. Section 4 shares
the outcomes of work and Section 5 outlines how we have changed
and expanded the programme in 2020 based on our learnings from
2019.
2 BACKGROUND
Australia has a shortage of teachers that are qualified to teach dig-
ital technology. Unfortunately, an ageing population of predomi-
nantly male IT teachers, a decreasing percentage of male teachers
overall, and unqualified teachers teaching in the digital technol-
ogy space does not bode well for addressing the IT skills gap in
Australia [2, 14].
2.1 Pre-Service Programmes
It is possible to increase the pool of qualified IT teachers by adding
computer science into the curriculum for pre-service teachers [6,
12] and increasing the population of undergraduate computer sci-
ence graduates who go on to obtain teaching qualifications [14].
However, it is generally agreed that the latter is unlikely to be
a rich source of new teachers given the lucrative IT careers that
exist outside of teaching. Indeed, in our work over the past two
years, we have encountered less than five CS undergraduate qual-
ified teachers in our state.
In the medium term, we believe it is possible to add core comput-
ing courses to teaching programmes. However, we do not believe
this is achievable in the short term in Australia, nor do we believe
that this can transform the landscape of digital technology educa-
tion in schools on a national scale.
2.2 Professional Development
Professional development (PD) of teachers has been widely dis-
cussed [3, 8, 10]. Desimone et al. [3] describe six factors of a PD
experience:
(1) Reform type—whether the activity is organised as a group
activity such as a mentoring relationship, as opposed to a
traditional workshop or conference
(2) Duration—how many hours the activity takes and its total
duration
(3) Collective participation—the number of teachers from the
same school
(4) Active learning—the degree to which there is practical ap-
plication of the learning, such as marking student work or
receiving mentoring feedback
(5) Coherence—how the PD aligns with the teacher’s goals
and their school, state, and national requirements
(6) Content focus—the degree of focus on deepening knowl-
edge
They have shown that group activities are more effective than tra-
ditional workshops or conferences, that having more teachers from
the same school participating is more effective than fewer, that ac-
tive learning is important, and that building on teachers’ existing
knowledge makes PD more effective. In their study, duration sur-
prisingly had no effect on the effectiveness of PD.
2.3 Related Work
There are many out of class programmes, such as the PD associated
with The Beauty and Joy of Computing [5], online programmes that
are offered in Australia through organisations such as CodeClub 2
2https://codeclubau.org
and the Australian Computing Academy (ACA) 3, and workshops
such as those offered by the ACA and regional offerings such as
those through the DLTV 4. As discussed in Section 2.2, the reform
type and the degree of active learning have been shown to affect
the success of a PD activity and, as such, there is evidence that in-
class PD may be more effective. In any case, our focus in this paper
is only on in-class PD programmes.
The type of material that is taught to students is known to have
an effect on educational outcomes [9, 13]. For example, students
are more engaged when the topic is game design. We are not aware
of a study that shows the effect of the type of materials on teacher
PD success.
The TEALS programme is similar to our approach [7, 11]. TEALS
builds teacher capacity in CS by pairing four volunteer comput-
ing professionals with one teacher, where that teacher has no CS
background. TEALS provides workshop-trained volunteers, third-
party teaching materials, and establishes typically a two-year part-
nership between the volunteers and the teacher. A volunteer typi-
cally visits the classroom two or three times per week. The overall
teacher commitment is around 300 hours of in-class PD with their
teaching team. The TEALS programme is aimed at teachers who
are upskilling to teach AP classes, that is, advanced high school
classes that bear university credit.
In a survey of students in the TEALS programme, 45% said they
were more likely to consider a CS career. Around 90% of teachers
said they would be ready to teach CS independently within two
years. There is not yet a longitudinal study on the effect of TEALS
in increasing participation in IT jobs, nor a study on whether stu-
dents ultimately study IT or related fields. However, it is clear that
TEALS is an effective PD programme.
TEALS is focused on helping upskill teachers to improve out-
comes for advanced students in the final years of high school. In
contrast, our programme is focused on increasing the pipeline of
students who might consider those advanced programmes. Our
programme is shorter in duration, aimed at younger students, and
covers introductory concepts only; our programme design is aimed
at scaling across thousands of schools in just a few years.
3 THE CS IN SCHOOLS PROGRAMME
Our goal in creating the CS in Schools programme is to transform
CS education in Australia. We want every secondary school stu-
dent in Australia to have the opportunity to learn how to code
as part of their regular classroom education. To achieve this goal,
we built a ten-week programme to develop introductory program-
ming skills, and scaffolded this programme so that it is nationally
scalable to all secondary school teachers and their students with a
high chance of adoption and success.
We launched a pilot of the CS in Schools programme in 2019 after
developing the programme throughout 2018. This section shares
the details.
3https://aca.edu.au
4https://dltv.vic.edu.au/
3.1 Approach
CS in Schools is a volunteer-based programme, and it is free to
schools and teachers5. We usually pair one volunteer computing
professional with a school teacher to help that teacher teach cod-
ing and computational thinking in their classroom. We refer to this
as a teaching team.
We ask each teaching team to teach the course twice with two
different cohorts of students over two consecutive teaching terms
or semesters. In the first term, we suggest that the volunteer spends
most of the time out the front of the class role modelling how to
explain coding, while the teacher learns by observation and man-
ages the classroom. In the second term, we ask that the teacher
takes the role at the front of the classroom, and the volunteer pro-
vides debugging help to students and mentoring feedback to the
teacher. Through teaching our materials twice as a teaching team,
we build capability within teachers to ensure they feel confident
and competent at teaching students to code using our lesson mate-
rials.
We provide the following resources:
Scaffolded lesson materials including lesson plans, slides,
video tutorials, coding activities, extension activities, assign-
ments, and quizzes
An expert volunteer computing professional
A two-day training workshop for volunteers, and mid-term
evening optional mini-workshops
Online and phone support
Our course is designed to be taught over 10 weeks at 2 hours of
contact time per week for 20 hours in total. The course is aimed at
Year 7 teachers and their students, who are typically 13 years of age.
Year 7 is the first year of secondary school, that is, the first post-
primary school year. Volunteers attend all classes, typically for 2
consecutive hours per week for around 20 weeks in total over a 6
month period; as discussed earlier, volunteers are present for two
repetitions of the course.
3.1.1 Teachers and Schools. Eight diverse schools from the state
of Victoria participated in the pilot. Six schools were located in or
near the capital city of Melbourne, and the other two schools were
over 200 kilometres (120 miles) from the city in the regional town
of Sale, which has a population of around 15,000. Three schools
were independent, private schools with fees ranging from approx-
imately AUD$10,000 to AUD$30,000 per year. Four schools were
public schools, including three that are designated as low socio-
economic status (SES); this is similar to Title I in the US. One school
was from the Catholic education system.
The smallest school had just over 400 secondary students and
largest had almost 1,500. The mean average was 770 students. Most
classes had around 25 students, and most schools had between 4
and 8 cohorts of student classes over the year. We provided a vol-
unteer for each class in terms 1 and 2, that is, the first half of the
year. At one school, we provided four different volunteers to sup-
port one teacher because she taught 2 classes in terms 1 and 2 with
a complex weekly timetable.
5CS in Schools is funded by philanthropic donation.
There were ten teachers in the pilot programme. Six of the eight
schools had one teacher in the programme, and the remaining two
schools had two teachers each.
Eight of the ten teachers in the programme participated in a sur-
vey commissioned by the CS in Schools organisation6. One teacher
had a formal diploma qualification in IT, while the remaining seven
did not. All teachers had taught coding—mostly using block-based
programming tools—and six of the eight were coordinating the IT
programmes in their schools. Six of the eight teachers expressed
some confidence in their ability to teach coding before joining the
programme. The teacher who expressed the highest confidence
shared that “if you asked me to write a program I would proba-
bly still get it all wrong but in terms of all the concepts I would get
that”. Another with some confidence had never taught an IT class.
Our empirical observation of the teachers in the early stages of
the programme did not support their self-confidence; we expect
that there may have been a significant difference between what
we understand as coding as software professionals and what the
teachers believed coding was coming into the programme. Indeed,
several teachers answered that they had “programmed in HTML”
previously, which is a markup language and not a programming
language. In the future, we plan to measure coding ability more
explicitly and quantitatively using, for example, online coding ex-
ercises.
3.1.2 Course Materials. The course is called “Introduction to Cod-
ing”. The programme covers basic coding topics using Python as
the teaching language. The topics covered are coding oriented top-
ics mandated by the Australian Digital Technologies curriculum
(ADTC) at the Years 7 and 8 level7. We use Python both because
of its popularity in industry and also because the ADTC requires
the use of a general-purpose programming language. The course
concludes with a capstone assignment and roughly two-thirds of
the student class time is spent writing code and practicing skills.
We designed and built the course materials8. The latest version
of our lesson materials contains six core lessons and we recom-
mend that classes spend at least two additional lessons working on
the capstone assignment. The remaining two lessons are typically
filled using lessons from our library of supplementary lessons; in
practice, most schools do not actually have ten weeks in a term
because of holidays, school events, or other activities. The eight
structured lessons are shown in Table 1.
Each of the lessons in the core syllabus is built around the “5Es
of Learning” pedagogical model: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elabo-
rate, Evaluate [1]. Each lesson begins with the demonstration of a
key concept by exploring and modifying pre-written code. After
this, key concepts are explained through slides and activities that
increase in difficulty. The final exercise is intentionally designed to
be open-ended, and it is accompanied by a video walkthrough. At
the end of the lesson, students are asked to reflect on their learn-
ings.
6The surveying was carried out by staff from the School of Education at RMIT
University
7https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/
8See: https://year7.io
Table 1: Core and working lessons in our “Introduction to Coding” course in the CS in Schools programme. The materials are
available at https://year7.io
Lesson Lesson Title Lesson Topics
1 Introduction to CS in Schools Introductions; signups; Hello, world!; Modifying existing code
2 Displaying Text on the Screen and Input Whitespace; Errors; Program flow; print;input
3 Colour your world! Displaying text in colours and styles; concatenating strings
4 Variables String variables; accepting input and storing it; printing variable contents
5 Decisions Flowcharts; if; equality with ==; indentation
6 Loops Loops in flowcharts; loops in code; inequality with !=
7 Assignment Introducing the rubric, examples, video guide, and answer template
8 Conclusion Working lesson; next steps; farewells
3.1.3 Volunteers. Volunteers were recruited from local Australian
technology companies. We trained fifteen volunteers and twelve
participated in the programme.
Eight of the volunteers participated in a survey that we com-
missioned. Four of the volunteers surveyed had less than 5 years
of professional experience, while the other four had 8, 10, 20, and
25 years of experience. Seven volunteers had no first hand experi-
ence in the classroom, while the remaining volunteer was studying
to become a teacher. Six of the volunteers were software engineers.
All volunteers surveyed had a formal computing qualification.
A strong sense of giving back was the key reason for partici-
pation. All volunteers wanted to be part of a programme that po-
sitioned IT more positively in the education system. Volunteering
was also a positive part of the culture of the two organisations that
contributed the most volunteers. Another factor that contributed
to volunteering was the belief of the importance of the IT sector
and its contribution to future economic and social prosperity. The
last significant factor was a perception that the education system
is not adequately keeping pace with the real world.
3.1.4 Workshop. The volunteers were required to attend a two-
day pre-service workshop. We modelled our workshop on TEALS’
approach, after consultation with the TEALS team. We spent more
time than TEALS focused on equipping volunteers with a basic
understanding of what it is like to be in a classroom, basic practices
to work with young students, and tips on how to explain coding
concepts. The workshop was largely facilitated by teachers and
school executives.
We also did something quite different to other workshops by
focusing on equipping volunteers with basic presentation skills to
effectively explain concepts in the classroom. We asked our volun-
teers to present a short lesson extracted from our course materials
to a small audience of teachers and students. Each volunteer re-
ceived both verbal and written feedback, and additional mentoring
from the CS in Schools staff if required.
3.1.5 Support. We provided volunteers and teachers with their
own CS in Schools email address and access to the CS in Schools
Slack online community. We created Slack channels for teachers,
volunteers, schools, tools, and curriculum discussions. In a typi-
cal week, the population of 22 teachers and volunteers, along with
the CS in Schools team, posted around 150 messages of which 40%
were in public channels accessible by everyone, 20% were in pri-
vate channels that did not include everyone, and 40% were direct
messages between people.
We ran two optional, short mid-programme evening workshops
for volunteers. The first was a discussion with the author of the
course materials on the course content and tips for explaining cod-
ing concepts. The second was run by an experienced teacher and
aimed at deepening skills to be an effective partner to a teacher in
a Year 7 classroom.
3.2 Choices
We observed that many primary schools in Australia have effec-
tive coding programmes, usually created through a partnership
between an IT specialist and the grade teacher. When students en-
ter secondary school at Year 7, they typically move between class-
rooms to take different specialised courses such as English, science,
music, and mathematics. The teachers are deep content experts,
and typically focus on their content area. If there is no dedicated
digital technology course, it becomes almost impossible to teach
students to code.
Many Australian secondary schools have Year 9 electives in digi-
tal technology. In schools with hundreds of students in a year level,
a typical enrolment in these technology electives is less than ten
students. This is not surprising given that students have had little
exposure to coding, and may have preconceptions about whether it
is interesting, relevant, or suitable for them. The follow-on effect is
low enrolments in final-year Year 12 IT courses; for example, in our
state, less than 1,500 students took the most popular IT course in
2018 (less than 200 non-males), while almost 11,000 studied chem-
istry. A programme similar to TEALS would improve the outcomes
for this small cohort of advanced students, but it would not in itself
significantly increase the pipeline of students who study Year 12
IT courses.
We decided to begin by launching a Year 7 programme. We typi-
cally work with schools that make our coding programme compul-
sory for all of their Year 7 students, and our programme is aimed at
the median student while offering support for weaker students and
challenge for advanced students. We found in consultation with
schools that it was only practical to launch a course that had the
same timetabling quantum as courses such as music, a language,
art, or woodwork. We therefore built our course to run for 10 weeks
at around 2 contact hours per week.
We built our own materials because we did not find a complete,
scaffolded Year 7 programme that met the Australia curriculum re-
quirements. We believe that our materials increase the chances of
teacher success, provide consistent quality in the student experi-
ence, and remove barriers to entry with schools.
4 INITIAL EVALUATION
We believe our 2019 pilot programme was successful. We com-
pleted the pilot with eight diverse schools, ten teachers with dif-
ferent backgrounds, twelve volunteers, and over 1,100 students.
Of the 1,100 students, around 600 were non-male. In this section,
we share qualitative feedback from teachers and volunteers, and
indicative numbers from the programme. We may report student
outcomes in the future, but did not seek ethics or other approvals
needed to do this.
Seven of the eight schools returned to the programme for 2020.
All of the schools have put new teachers in the programme and the
majority have added more than one teacher; the 2020 programme
averages over 2 teachers per school, while 2019 averaged just over
1. The school and teacher that have not returned to the programme
are continuing to teach our materials to their Year 7 classes.
Nine teachers in the programme confidently taught our Year 7
course in the second half of 2019 without volunteer support; the
other teacher did not teach at all. Eight of the ten teachers have
returned to participate in a new Year 8 “Intermediate Coding” PD
programme that follows the same model.
4.1 Teacher Experience
Eight of the ten teachers participated in a survey that we com-
missioned. All teachers reported increases in their confidence and
competence to teach coding because of the CS in Schools pilot. The
following comments are typical examples of feedback on partici-
pation in the programme:
“The resources are great. Please keep doing it. Please keep
sending volunteers.
“Amazing to have volunteers [in the classroom] and be able
to ask them questions to clarify. Grateful our school chose to
put up their hand to do the project, I would love to continue
with it.
“I think it was really beneficial for us to be a part of the pilot.
I would like to see it happen again maybe next year. ”
“I’d like to deepen the relationship and the partnership.
4.1.1 Teacher Example One. Peter9has 8 years of teaching experi-
ence, and has previously taught visuals arts and media. Peter states
that “without the CS in Schools programme I would have been able
to teach Python but not as well as this. The programme has helped
immensely and now I will be able to teach in a really well struc-
tured way”. He also said that “it was really beneficial for us [the
school] to be a part of the pilot”.
He also noted that “[The resources] were very well balanced.
There were points where I would look at the slides and think: your
lessons you’ve planned have a slide for every single thing that you
need to teach.
9Not his real name. All real names have been changed
4.1.2 Teacher Example Two. Isabel has over 25 years of teaching
experience, a graduate diploma in IT, and has primarily taught lan-
guages. Her confidence before the programme was low and she
shared that “I’m not confident to teach a whole [coding] class and
I have no platform [tools or environments] to teach coding”. After
the programme she stated that “My skills are much better. Much
better” and that the “the [resources] are very descriptive, with step
by step [scaffolding]. You can’t go wrong”. She believes strongly in
the two-pass model, where a volunteer helps a teacher for two it-
erations of teaching the materials.
She appreciated the in-class content expertise from the volun-
teer and shared that “it was amazing just to be taught and I could
ask things ... if this happens or I want this how do I do this? This
is the bit that I don’t like about [studying online] because if you’re
stuck, you’re stuck. If you [are a] beginner and you get stuck, who
do you ask if you don’t have anybody that can help you?”
4.1.3 Teacher Example Three. Simon is a physical education and
biology teacher by training with around 10 years of experience. He
is passionate about IT and has been teaching classes for a few years.
He shared before the programme: “I have low coding skills. In my
IT classes I might have a few kids who code as a hobby who help
me”.
He appreciated the course materials, sharing that “one of the
main benefits of CS in Schools was the activities were there, the
curriculum was followed, and it was done. All you really had to
do was learn it and implement it”. He also appreciated the volun-
teer supporting his PD, stating that “it’s a lot quicker when you’ve
got someone that can ... just help you out in real-time rather than
spending an hour or two trying to work something simple out”.
4.2 Volunteer Experience
Ten of the twelve volunteers completed two school terms of six
months and two iterations of the teaching materials with their part-
ner teacher. One volunteer committed initially for only one term,
and was replaced by a CS in Schools staff member for the second
term. One volunteer withdrew from volunteering after one term
and was replaced by a volunteer who took on an additional teacher
and school.
Five of the ten volunteers who completed two terms in 2019
are volunteering again in 2020. One volunteer became a qualified
teacher and joined the staff of the school where he was a volunteer,
and now teaches CS at that school. Another volunteer joined the
CS in Schools organisation. One volunteer remains associated with
the programme in an ad hoc mentoring capacity, and two cited
changing work circumstances as the reason for not continuing.
Eight of the twelve volunteers participated in a survey commis-
sioned by the CS in Schools organisation.
4.2.1 Workshop. Volunteers had a strong positive impression of
the pre-service workshop. Josh10 shared that “[Given] only two
days and given the constraints they covered a good amount”. Bren-
dan said that “It was really interactive which you can’t help but
find engaging”. Teachers as presenters was popular, with Nina say-
ing “Teachers and [the other] speakers were people who had real
knowledge of the classroom” and Brendan contributing that “They
10Not the real names again
knew what they were talking about and did a good job. They were
really, really good”.
The content was well received, with volunteers happy with the
focus on volunteering in a classroom environment. Brendan shared
that “There’s heaps of stuff they mentioned that we tried, like how
to engage students when asking them a question, how to talk to
kids when they answer something incorrectly”. Kieran was equally
positive, sharing that “Once I was in the classroom a lot more of
the lessons [from the workshop] became applicable when in front
of the class”.
Volunteers liked receiving feedback on mock presentations. As
Nina said, “[this was] helpful beyond the classroom”. Jason stated
that it was “not something you learn anywhere else I don’t think.
I found it super useful, even for work”.
4.3 Areas for Improvement
Our surveys of teachers and volunteers uncovered several areas
for possible improvement:
(1) Authenticity—add more real-world examples to the teach-
ing materials
(2) Flexibility—build a more flexible model, given that every
school has a different timetable, different class duration, and
approach to managing students
(3) Reduce scope—the course covers too much material
(4) Change the timeline or scaffold more—in the first term, most
Year 7 students are new to their school, and new to their
school laptop, network, and environment. They need more
support in these initial stages or the programme could com-
mence in the second term
(5) More teachers and more time—some teachers might bene-
fit by being supported for more than two iterations of the
course, and some schools will benefit from more teachers
taking the CS in Schools programme
(6) Teacher workshop—run a teacher workshop before the pro-
gramme starts
(7) More tool instruction in the workshop—spend more time
on the course materials and the tools in the workshop, in
addition to situating volunteers on classroom practices
5 NEXT STEPS
We made several changes to the programme for 2020. In terms of
course materials, we made two significant changes: first, we re-
duced the content to eight weeks, slowed the pace of the eight
lessons, and added a library of optional supplementary lessons;
second, we created a third open-ended exercise at the end of each
lesson, which allows advanced students to explore a concept more
deeply.
We added a teacher workshop that is focused on introducing
coding, setting context about how our course meets the curricu-
lum requirements, and allows time for volunteers and teachers to
meet and form an effective team. We also added more tools, course
material, and programming environment training for volunteers.
For the 2020 school year, which began in February, we have sub-
stantially increased the size of the programme. Around 60 teachers
are participating, and around 50 are participating in the way we
have described in this paper; approximately 10 teachers are more
experienced, and are receiving mentoring from volunteers rather
than support in the classroom. We have around 40 volunteers, and
some volunteers work with more than one teacher. There are 27
schools in the programme, which translates to more than 6,000
students in the programme for 2020, of which more than half are
again non-male. We are also offering a new Year 8 pilot to return-
ing teachers that builds on the introductory Year 7 programme.
We are studying the 2020 offerings both quantitively and quali-
tatively.
6 CONCLUSION
Australian schools are required to teach students to code, yet most
schools are not doing so because of a shortage of qualified teachers
and the lack of dedicated courses devoted to digital technology.
We believe the only way to change this in the short- to medium-
term is to equip existing teachers with the skills to teach coding,
and thereby enable schools to teach digital technology to all of
their students. Without making urgent and substantive changes, it
is unlikely that there will be a step function change in the number
students choosing IT as a career.
We have designed, built, and tested a course for entry-level sec-
ondary school students that teaches them the fundamentals of cod-
ing in Python. We give this course away for free, and help teachers
who want professional development support to teach our course.
We support teachers by pairing them with a volunteer comput-
ing professional who brings content expertise and real-world ex-
perience to the classroom. We tested this with ten teachers, eight
schools, twelve volunteers, and over 1,100 students in 2019.
We commissioned a qualitative survey of teachers that showed
our programme was effective. Teachers universally report an in-
crease in their competence and confidence in teaching coding. We
also learnt there was room for improvement, and key changes we
have made for 2020 include reducing the complexity and amount of
content, running a teacher workshop before the programme starts,
and adding more teachers to the programme from each school that
we work with.
Eight of the ten teachers in the 2019 programme have returned
for a 2020 programme that develops more advanced skills, and
seven of the eight schools are continuing to work with us. We
have added approximately 20 schools, 50 teachers, and 30 volun-
teers, largely through recommendations from schools and teach-
ers to other schools and teachers. We believe our programme is
successful, and look forward to working with over 6,000 students
in 2020. We plan to report quantatively and qualitatively on our
work in 2020. Most importantly, we look forward to dramatically
changing Australian educational outcomes in digital technology
over the next two to three years.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Toan Huynh is the primary author of the Year 7 materials, and we
are deeply grateful for his ongoing contribution. We thank Nicky
Carr and Grant Cooper from RMIT University for their help in sur-
veying participants in the programme. We also thank Leigh Jasper,
Martin Hosking, and Adam Lewis for their generous philanthropic
funding of our work.
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... In recent years, the deployment of large-scale interventions to promote the advancement of computational thinking and programming in primary and secondary schools has gained more attention, not only from the computing education research community, but also from national and regional governments. For instance, some of the experiences reported in the literature have taken place in Australia [34], Belgium [21], Chile [30], France [6], Italy [7], Mexico [8], New Zealand [3], Puerto Rico [24], Qatar [28], Sweden [13], Switzerland [17], as well as statewide across mainland US (e.g., [1,4,9,10,14,18,27,29,31,33]), just to name a few. ...
... Professional development programs appear as a way to bridge the increasing gap in counting with qualified facilitators for training K-12 learners in CT and programming. On the one hand, Williams et al. [34] envisioned a nationwide program in Australia, aiming to develop introductory programming skills among secondary school teachers, with national scalability in mind. These authors identified the following as the most critical concerns to address: use of contextualized real-world examples, flexibility, and the preparation and delivery of focused material. ...
... The rising demand for coding teaching, combined with new skills required by our age, has made the lessons related to coding teaching both in schools (Sterritt, Hanna & Campbell, 2015;Williams et al., 2020) and on online learning platforms (Lau & Yuen, 2011;Çakıroğlu et al., 2016;Zinovieva et al., 2021) the focus of attention. Besides, coding has been introduced to curriculums from the preliminary education levels to accelerate countries' transition from consumer to producer through programs and software (Saeli et al., 2011;Demirer & Sak, 2016). ...
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