Pre-service teachers as agents of change in the new Computing curriculum

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Pre-service teachers as agents of change in the new Computing curriculum

In September 2014, the national curriculum in England and Wales saw a shift from teaching Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to teaching Computing. The traditional approach of educating our young people to be digital ‘users’ and ‘consumers’ is now incompatible with the developing requirement to teach our children to be ‘creators’ of computing technologies (Goode et al, 2012). However, Computing is a very different subject to ICT, incorporating digital literacy, information technology and, the significantly more complex, discipline of computer science. This arguably suggests that proficiency for the delivery of a flourishing computing focused curriculum is understated in many of our schools (Braund & Campbell, 2010), with some in-service teacher colleagues finding it difficult to embrace the change required from them. Inevitably this will impact on initial teacher education and training (ITT) programmes and pre-service Computing teachers may not be afforded the opportunities to engage with the Computing and Computer Science subject knowledge and pedagogical excellence necessary during their school-based experiences.


Photo: Kjetil Sandvin Groven

Three years on from this curriculum amendment and I suggest the transition from an ICT focused syllabus to that of Computing (and moreso Computer Science at national qualification level) is still in a muddled state of flux. There have been a number of computing professional development opportunities provided for in-service teacher colleagues. However, these have tended to mirror American facing computing education reform and focus on subject matter and content (Goode et al, 2012). Arguably the ‘pedagogic shift’ required to successfully teach a computing curriculum is not so well embodied. A suggestion is that historic ICT education focused on the ‘training’ of ‘office skills’ (Livingstone & Hope, 2011). If we adopt a similar ‘training’ and possible ‘demonstration’ led approach with Computing pedagogy we are unlikely to inspire excitement in the subject nor are we likely to enable creative, problem solving, error making, and explorative approaches to the learning that computing education requires. We cannot just hand teachers a new curriculum and provide content training and hope this is sufficient to engender success (Goode et al, 2012).

Computing pre-service teachers acting as collaborative agents of change (with support from their ITT providers) can champion shifts in knowledge and pedagogical practice. They enter the profession with the moral imperative of wanting to ‘make that difference’ (Fullan, 1993) and as such are ready and wanting to establish their identity and influence. They are willing to enable change and become initiators, innovators, creators, convincers and involvers (Lu & Ortlieb, 2009). Inevitably though, this is not without challenge. It is likely that pre-service teachers may be powerless to impact on change as they may not be in a position in their schools to have the influence required (Braund & Campbell, 2009). They may not yet see themselves as ‘teachers’ (Price & Valli, 2005) in the schools they are placed. They may not understand how schools operate and the politics involved (MacPhail & Tannehill, 2012). School-based mentors may demand conformity within their own conceptual stance and pedagogic approach (Kagan 1992).

I believe pre-service teachers can have a significant role to play in supporting Computing curricula change in their schools.

With all this in mind, I believe pre-service teachers can have a significant role to play in supporting Computing curricula change in their schools. We need to exploit their energy, skills and professional/ academic experiences (Lukacs & Galluzzo, 2014). Computing ITT programmes should therefore develop this skillset, capability, competence and confidence with the support of their partnership schools; in enabling the expertise required to support and bring about change. To enable transformational agents of change, opposing perspectives need to be discussed openly and collaboratively. Pre-service teachers need to be encouraged to critically engage with and question existing practices and assumptions of their in-service department colleagues and schools (Lane et al, 2003) in developing their teacher identity, educational vision (Fullan, 1993) and innovative confidence. This must be driven by teacher education programmes.



Braund, M. & Campbell, B. (2009). ‘Learning to Teach About Ideas and Evidence in Science: The Student Teacher as Change Agent’, Research in Science Education, 40, 203-222

Fullan, M. (1993). ‘Why Teachers Must Become Change Agents’, Educational Leadership, 50:6

Goode, J. et al. (2012). ‘Beyond Curriculum: The Exploring Computer Science Program’. ACM Inroads. 3(2). 47-53

Kagan, D. (1992). ‘Professional growth among preservice and beginning teachers’. Review of Educational Research, 62(2), 129-169

Livingstone, I. and Hope, A. (2011).‘NESTA Next Gen: Transforming the UK into the world’s leading talent hub for the video games and visual effects industries’.

Lu, L. and Ortlieb, E. (2009). ‘Teacher candidates as innovative change agents’, Current Issues in Education, 11

Lukacs, S. & Galluzzo, G. (2014). ‘Beyond empty vessels and bridges: toward defining teachers as the agents of school change’, Teacher Development: An international journal of teachers’ professional development, 18:1, 100-106

MacPhail, A. and Tannehill, D. (2012). ‘Helping Pre-Service and Beginning Teachers Examine and Reframe Assumptions About Themselves as Teachers and Change Agents: “Who is Going to Listen to You Anyway?”, Quest, 64, 299-312

Price, J. & Valli, L. (2005). ‘Preservice Teachers Becoming Agents of Change’, Journal of Teacher Education, 56:1, 57-72

David Wells
David Wells

David Wells is a senior lecturer, and an initial teacher educator at the Cass School of Education and Communities, University of East London, England.

He is the Programme Leader for secondary phase initial teacher education as well as the Computing subject lead. Prior to undertaking this role, David was a teacher and leader of Information Technology in English secondary schools. David is currently studying for a Professional Doctorate in Education where his thesis focuses on the use of gamification and video game dynamics as a pedagogy to support motivation and engagement in secondary school pupils’ progress and learning.

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