Editors: Sally A. Fincher and Anthony V. Robins
Publisher: Cambridge University Press – 905 pages
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

This lengthy book of 900+ pages informs us about the current state of computing education research. Besides providing an overview of this area along with detailed views of its many components, the authors Sally Fincher and Anthony Robins, along with over 50 contributors of content, do the following in this book:

  • Set the field in context
  • Provide expertise on their individual specialty areas
  • Inform us what is already known and what else needs to be learned from empirical, methodological, and theoretical standpoints

In other words, they enlighten us on what issues are of current interest, why they matter, and what are still open questions that can provide us pathways for further research.

Fifty-three specialists in computing education research in six countries – Australia, Finland, Israel, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States – authored the 31 chapters of this book that we list titles of below for your overview of the coverage of this book:

  1. Part I – Background
    1. The History of Computing Education Research
    2. Computing Education research Today
    3. Computing Education: Literature Review and Voices from the Past
  2. Part II – Foundations
    1. A Study Design Process
    2. Descriptive Statistics
    3. Inferential Statistics
    4. Qualitative Methods for Computing Education
    5. Learning Sciences for Computing Education
    6. Cognitive Sciences for Computing Education
    7. Higher Education Pedagogy
    8. Engineering Education Research
  3. Part III – Topics
  4. Systemic Issues
    1. Novice Programmers and Introductory Programming
    2. Programming Paradigms and Beyond
    3. Assessment and Plagiarism
    4. Pedagogic Approaches
    5. Equity and Diversity
  5. New Milieux
    1. Computational Thinking
    2. Schools (K-12)
    3. Computing for Other Disciplines
    4. New Programming Paradigms
  6. Systems Software and Technology
    1. Tools and Environments
    2. Tangible Computing
    3. Leveraging the Integrated Development Environment
  7. Teacher and Student Knowledge
    1. Teacher Knowledge for Inclusive Computer Learning
    2. Teacher Learning and Professional development
    3. Learning Outside the Classroom
    4. Student Knowledge and Misconceptions
    5. Motivation, Attitudes, and Dispositions
    6. Students As Teachers and Communicators
  8. Case Studies
    1. A Case Study of Peer Instruction: From University of California, San Diego to the Computer Science Community
    2. A Case Study of Qualitative Methods

Computing education is not only important, but crucial in today’s world for any country, business, or individual to not only move ahead, but to stay ahead all the time. This saying applies very strongly today: You snooze, you lose.

The editors write at the outset of this book:

Computing technology is reshaping the world around us at an ever-increasing pace, changing the way that we work (or don’t work) , communicate, consume, learn, create, educate, entertain ourselves, and more.    

They point out that just a few of the major computing-driven issues being widely debated today include: the rise of artificial intelligence applications (automation of work, digital assistants, and self-driving vehicles); the use or abuse of social media and personal data, and the advent of disruptive crypto-currencies.

We can think of many reasons why computing education, and therefore, research on it, is important. The editors have already gone one step ahead of us in this thinking, and as a conclusion to this review, we enumerate four of them here:

  1. The labor market rationale: computing skills are explicitly required for an increasingly large number of jobs and will be generally useful for very many more
  2. The computational thinking rationale: computational ways of thinking (e.g. algorithms, heuristics, and problem-solving skills) are all useful and transferrable. The belief that they are good preparation for later specialist topics (such as learning to program) has helped to drive the widespread introduction of computational thinking in schools
  3. The computational literacy rationale: general familiarity with programming and other computing skills is sometimes equated with mathematical or textual literacy. Some further point out that computational literacy goes beyond computational thinking to enable new types of mental operations, knowledge representations, and modes of expression.
  4. The equity of participation rationale: computing knowledge will be increasingly required for th4e best jobs, for civic participation, and even for understanding the functioning of the society around us.

This is a very timely and increasingly essential book that is well worth reading for one and all. Why? The world has already moved much further ahead with the efforts of those with computational knowledge, skills and training that many of us do not even have yet.




Sally A. Fincher is Professor of Computing Education in the School of Computing at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, where she leads the Computing Education Research Group. She is also an Association for Computing Machinery Distinguished Scientist, a UK National Teaching Fellow, and a Senior Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy and a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts.

Anthony V. Robins is Professor of Computer Science at the University of Otago in New Zealand. He is also Associate Journal Editor of Computer Science Education and has co-organized multinational research studies. He has worked for the Ministry of Education in New Zealand on new programming assessment standards and related instructional materials for secondary schools.