The Value of Community in Professional Development – SIGCSE 2018

by Infosys Foundation USA | March 27, 2018

In February, more than 1,500 researchers, educators, and others interested in improving computing in K-12 and higher education convened in Baltimore, MD at SIGCSE Technical Symposium, the largest computing education conference worldwide.


The Foundation hosted a panel at SIGCSE on "The Value of Community in Professional Development" which was moderated by Juan Vargas, who serves as a trustee of the Foundation. Supporting high quality computer science education is key to fulfilling the Foundation’s mission. A good portion of our philanthropic work is dedicated to expanding computer science professional development (CSPD), especially for educators at high-needs schools.

Juan invited four experts to discuss how to create opportunities for long term peer learning for Computer Science and Maker educators, including:

  • Tiffany Barnes, SIGCSE Symposium Co-Chair and associate professor, North Carolina State University, who serves co-PI and Director for Beauty & Joy of Computing/STARS
  • Jim Cohoon, researcher at Lighthouse at University of Virginia, is focused on CS diversity through faculty education, and serves as co-PI of The Tapestry Workshop for high school CS educators
  • Joanna Goode, associate professor at University of Oregon who has developed the equity-focused Exploring Computer Science (ECS) high school curriculum and associated PD
  • Joe Politz, faculty member at UC San Diego, designer of Pyret programming language, used from middle school to undergraduate level curriculums. As part of Bootstrap curricular outreach, he designs Pyret to serve courses, teachers, and students.


To open up the PD discussion, Tiffany Barnes reminded the audience that "Teachers are learners, too. And if they are excited about the content, they can also get students excited about it."

Panelists answered PD-related questions ranging from diversity and inclusion to cohorts made up of different backgrounds and grade levels as well as multi-year cohorts. Each panelist shared their ideas on what it takes to create a sense of community among teachers.

Based on her experience with ECS, Joanna Goode pointed out that "Multi-year cohorts learning together allows long-term learning for teachers. And these teachers can take advantage of pedagogical support from more advanced colleagues." The panelists also shared with the audience how their respective courses have been successful and impactful and what value they provide to the teachers and students and ways of further improving and growing. Community creates a sense of belonging and motivation which the teachers need to feel part of to be successful.

Of particular focus included panelists discussing Pathfinders Summer Institute 2018, a large scale professional development for 1000 teachers which will be held from July 15-20 at Indiana University Bloomington and being hosted by the Foundation. Pathfinders is unique in that teachers from all over the US will join into a community of various professional development tracks, made up of different grades, states, and curriculums. Commenting on the value of community in professional development being created at Pathfinders, Jim Cohoon predicts, "Different people with different interests will get inspired and learn from each other at #InfyPathfinders Summer Institute."

Teacher applications for #PathFinders are being accepted through April 2nd.