UTeach Institute focuses on new AP course and Computer Science education for teachers

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Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

High schools across the country will soon introduce a new computer science course to their curriculums, thanks to an initiative by the University’s UTeach program.

UTeach, a program that encourages undergraduate STEM students to pursue teaching careers, is promoting a UT-designed course to enhance computer science education for high school students and teachers.

The course, “Computer Science Principles,” was developed through a partnership between UT’s computer science department and the College of Education and is expected to gain an endorsement from the College Board. After developing the course, UT reached out to its 44 partner universities across the country to introduce the curriculum to high schools in those areas. The course aims to attract a more diverse pool of students than the current Advanced Placement computer science course. 

“It is a broader curriculum, encouraging to young women and developed to be a lot more collaborative and inviting,” said Alicia Beth, UTeach research and evaluation manager. “It will focus on conceptual understanding and computational thinking to solve problems.” 

Before the course becomes available later this fall, UTeach instructors will train high school teachers to teach the course. UTeach students are currently working to design computer science content for teachers, since many of them had difficulty developing computer science curriculums for younger students. 

“For [computer science] majors trying out teaching, the early UTeach classes do not provide them the opportunity to teach [computer science]-related content,” UTeach director Kimberly Hughes said. “We are helping them prepare content kits so that students who have [computer science] interests can prepare lessons [for elementary and junior high-aged kids].” 

Computer science junior Nathan Seegmiller said he struggled to pursue the subject in high school because of a lack of available curriculum. 

“I took the AP version my junior year, and some of my friends and I wanted to take more [computer science] after that, so the school had to make a whole new curriculum for us,” Seegmiller said. “The problem was that it did not have enough interest, so it was placed during an AP section, and we had to teach ourselves. For most people, that class was their only exposure to [computer science].”

Prompted by President Barack Obama’s statement about an initiative to encourage computer science education on Jan. 31, UTeach will continue to develop programs that integrate computer science curriculum into general education, Hughes. said. “We really believe that over time it will become an expectation that kids are exposed to computer science and computational thinking,” Hughes said.