One of my research foci is in educational technology and computing education. I have conducted a number of projects over the past 10 years in this domain, including my PhD. Below is a summary of my main current project, as well as some past projects.
My current main educational project is investigating Student Experience within Computer Science Education.
There is widespread acceptance of the use of national benchmarks to measure student engagement, including the North American National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) in the USA and Canada, the Student Experience Survey (SES) in Australia, and the Student Engagement Survey (SES) in the UK. The performance of Computer Science (CS) on these benchmarks, however, has generally been poor over a number of years. In fact, CS performance is consistently low across a range of instruments and shows little sign of improvement. It is difficult to argue that the inherent technical nature of the CS discipline is the reason for this poor performance as related STEM disciplines consistently rate more highly on many measures. Given the deteriorating performance of CS across multiple student engagement instruments, the urgency of addressing this issue is increasing.
Missing from computing education research to date is the CS student voice and a deeper understanding of why CS students rate their experience so poorly. It is essential to seek the perspectives of both sides of the dialogue primarily responsible for creating the student experience, CS students and CS academics. Current research is using a combination of data sets to obtain the most complete understanding of the issues at play, including: detailed NSSE, SES and UKES survey responses; student surveys and interviews; and academic surveys and interviews.
I have completed a number of other projects in this domain. These include
- A Framework for the Effective Learning of High Concept Low Feedback Programming Curriculum: this was the topic of my PhD, awarded in 2010 and recipient of the Faculty of Information Technology Doctoral Medal for most outstanding thesis of 2010. This investigated the nexus of high concept – low feedback and offered an alternate approach to the teaching and learning of program design, specifically object-oriented design. A computer-based application was developed to guide students through a step-by-step approach to program design. The application included scaffolded support to allow students to draw on alternate contextualised support strategies in the earlier stages of learning. It also integrated reflective processes to help facilitate self-evaluation in the absence of process or teacher provided feedback.
- The use of large-scale multi-touch hardware for collaborative learning: research has investigated the use of large multi-touch computing surfaces to facilitate collaboration between users, through simultaneous direct manipulation of content. A number of smaller project have employed this technology, including: Collaborative Educational Applications, for students working together to create shared understandings; Collaborative Diagramming Tools, for improved problem-solving through manipulation of complex diagrams; and Interactive Student Profile Visualisation for MOOCs, to represent multifaceted learning analytics. This technology has also been used by two of my PhD students, with one focusing on guidelines for the development of true collaborative learning software using the technology.
- Experiences of first-year students in ICT courses – Good teaching practices: This investigated the teaching of first-year Information and Communications Technology (ICT) students at Australian universities and the influences of teaching practices on students’ learning experiences. The project was conducted by a myself and a team of five other academics from Monash University, the University of Adelaide and the University of Newcastle. The project was funded by the Australian Council of Deans of ICT (ACDICT).vThe aim of the project was to identify and disseminate good practices in ICT teaching at Australian universities with a specific focus on the first-year experience. Through examining recent research literature, surveying information on existing courses and content, and interviewing academics concerned with design and delivery of the first-year learning experience in Australian universities, we were able to gain a comprehensive view of current teaching practices and were able to outline the unique challenges that our first-year ICT students face.
You can find a list of publications arising from this and other work on my publications page here.