Research Project – The use of design in primary programming projects

In England, since September 2014, school teachers have been required to teach  5 to 11 years old pupils about algorithms and how to design and write programs.

Jane Waite, at Queen Mary University of London is undertaking a PhD looking at this requirement and how teachers have responded to it. Her field of research is on the use of design in primary programming projects and how algorithms fit into the teaching of program design.

Jane is supervised by Professor Paul Curzon, Dr William Marsh at QMUL and Dr Sue Sentance formerly King’s College London and now at the Raspberry Pi Foundation.

So far, a  number of studies have been undertaken and reported on. Below is a list of the studies along with the related anonymised data and tools developed.


Initial Interviews phase

Initial exploratory research of the use of design in programming projects – interviews of five teachers and fifty pupils

  1. Interview protocol (to be added)
  2. Interview transcripts (to be added)
  3. Publications

Waite, J., Curzon, P,. Marsh, W. and Sentance. S (2016) Abstraction and common classroom activities, In WiPSCE ’16: Proceedings of the 11th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, pp112-113, October, ACM. DOI: 10.1145/2978249.2978272  (Poster)

Waite, J., Curzon, P,. Marsh, W. and Sentance. S  (2018) Abstraction in action: K-5 teachers’ uses of levels of abstraction, particularly the design level, in teaching programming, International Journal of Computer Science Education in Schools. 2(1): 14-40. January. DOI: 10.21585/ijcses.v2i1.23  (Journal paper)


Survey Phase

Exploration of generalisation of initial findings – a survey of 207 teachers on their use of design in teaching programming and use of planning in teaching writing in English

  1. Survey (link to general google survey) Similar copied surveys were provided for seperate workshops.
  2. Survey (questions in pdf form)
  3. Survey results excel spreadsheet (to be added)
  4. Publications

Waite, J. Curzon, P., Marsh, W., & Sentance, S., (2017) K-5 Teachers’ Uses of Levels of Abstraction Focusing on Design. In Proceedings of the 12th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education. ACM, pp. 115–116. DOI: 10.1145/3137065.3137068 (Poster)

Waite, J., Curzon, P,. Marsh, W. and Sentance. S (2018) Comparing K-5 teachers reported use of design in teaching programming and planning in teaching writing, in Proceedings of the 13th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, editors Andreas Mühling, Quintin Cutts, Potsdam, Germany, October, ACM New York. DOI: 10.1145/3265757.3265761 (Full paper)


Design Toolkit Creation Phase

Pilot of design toolkit – design artefact model

In this phase of the research an initial the model of the aspects of design in primary programming projects was presented to teachers in the form of a design toolkit.

The toolkit was shared,  in the pilot phase, as a teacher workbook. 26 teachers took part in the pilot, using the workbook during a conference workshop in June 2019.

The workbook presented the design artefact model as a series of interrelated concepts. Each concept was introduced through a diagram and short written description. The description included a definition, examples of the use of the concept and potential related student learning objectives.

Teachers were introduced to each concept and then asked to apply it to a sample programming lesson plan activity. Teachers recorded their classification of each concept in their workbook and these reviewed as a group. Teachers were then asked to apply the same concept again, for a second time to a lesson activity which they had brought with them and they were familiar with.

The workbooks also contained a pre and post-assessment and questions on how confident teachers felt to apply each concept, how concepts might be improved and how concepts might be used in class.

Due to time constraints, teachers did not complete the entire workbook at the workshop, instead, they will complete it afterwards in an online workshop or independently. Workbooks were photocopied after the workshops for research use.

The feedback from the workbooks was then analysed and used to update the workbook for the next phase.

Pilot resources (these are not being shared until the main toolkit phases have been run)

  1. Design Toolkit Workbook
  2. Sample lesson plan and sample lesson plan resources
  3. 2nd Sample lesson plan provided for teachers who did not bring their own planning
  4. Anonymised Toolkit feedback
  5. Workshop presentations

Recruiting participants for toolkit development

In this phase, we are recruiting teachers to take part in the next two stages of the update and review of toolkit. Teachers are being asked to apply to take part by completing this survey.

Interviews with teachers using the toolkit

Twenty to thirty of the teachers who respond to the survey will be asked to be interviewed (face to face) as they work through the toolkit and provide detailed feedback on how it can be improved. Updated versions of the toolkit will be reviewed by this group to develop a revised version.

Review with a wider online community

Other teachers responding to the survey will be asked to take part in an online activity, where they are introduced to the toolkit. These teachers will provide written feedback by completing the toolkit and a survey.

Final version

A final version will then be shared with the teaching community at large.


Other publications on design

Book chapter: Waite JL (2019)Design in K-5 Programming Projects, Role of.  10.1007/978-3-319-60013-0_137-1