(Cross-posted on the Research Blog.)

Since 2009, Google’s CS4HS (Computer Science for High School) grant program has connected more than 12,000 computer science (CS) teachers with skills and resources to teach CS in fun and relevant ways. An estimated 600,000 students have been impacted by the teachers who have completed CS4HS professional development workshops so far. Through annual grants, nearly 230 colleges and universities have hosted professional development workshops worldwide.

Grantees use the funds to develop CS curriculum and professional development workshops tailored for local middle and high school teachers. These workshops expose teachers to CS curriculum using real-world applications that spark students’ curiosity. As feedback from those teachers rolls in, we want to share some highlights from what we’ve learned so far.

What went well:

  • 89% of participants reported they would recommend their workshop to others
  • 44% more participants reported a “high” or “very high knowledge” of CS after their workshop vs. before
  • More than half of participants said they would use “most” or “all” of the activities or resources presented during their workshop.
  • In 2014 the number of teachers who took part in a CS4HS professional development workshop increased by 50%, primarily due to the funding of multiple MOOCs.

Ways to make a bigger impact:

  • Just 53% of participants said they felt a sense of community among the other workshop participants. Research by Joyce & Showers (2002) and Wiske, Stone, & Levinson (1993) shows that peer-to-peer professional development, along with ongoing support, helps teachers implement new content, retain skills, and create lasting change. We’ll explore new ways to build community among participants as we plan future workshops.
  • 83% of participants reported being Caucasian, which is consistent with the current demographics of CS educators. This indicates a need to increase efforts in diversifying the CS teacher population.
  • Outcome measures show us that the most knowledge gains were among teachers who had no prior experience teaching CS or participating in CS professional development -- a population that made up just 30% of participants. While we see that the workshops are meeting a need, there remains an opportunity to develop materials geared toward more experienced CS teachers while also encouraging more new teachers to participate.

We know there are many challenges to overcome to improve the state of CS teacher professional development. We look forward to sharing new ideas for working in partnership with the CS education community to help address those challenges, in particular by helping more teachers teach computer science.
At the University of Sydney CS4HS workshop teachers are learning how to teach
Computer Science without a computer during a CS Unplugged activity.