Teacher Experience of Phase 1 Leaving Certificate Computer Science
My name is Sarah-Jayne Carey and I teach in a large girls’ secondary school, Coláiste Bríde in Clondalkin, Dublin.
For the past n umber of years, we have tried to encourage our students to see STEM careers as an option for them. So I was delighted when we were accepted as a Phase 1 school to teach Computer Science. We had our first national workshop in May where we met the other Phase 1 teachers and started learning together.
Teaching a brand new subject for leaving certificate was daunting at first and challenging throughout. There were aspects of the curriculum that I had never covered before, so it was a steep learning curve. However, the PDST National Workshops, CPD and support in general, has been excellent. The computer science teachers have become a community of practice and we all help each other throughout the year.
Leaving Certificate Computer Science is not at all what I, or the students expected. To be honest, I presumed that it would be mostly coding, but it is much more. The course is so broad – design thinking, problem solving, artificial intelligence, Computers and Society… to name a few, as well as coding of course. However, it is applicable to everyday life – each week there is something in the news that we can share with the students to make the course content real and relevant. This breadth in the curriculum means that there is something for every student and we can link it to real world examples. Every student has the chance to thrive at some aspect of the course. This makes it really fulfilling to teach.
The students enjoyed the subject — particularly the hands-on aspects. They all commented that it was not at all what they expected — they were surprised by the creativity, and the freedom they had in choosing their designs as well as the amount of collaboration. They were also surprised that it wasn’t all coding!
It is a different way of teaching and learning. As teachers we had to get comfortable with not having all the answers and encouraging the students to find the answers for themselves — which sometimes takes longer, but leads to much deeper learning. They got into the habit of asking the whole class if they were stuck with an aspect of their code. This fostered real collaboration and camaraderie; we witnessed students answering each other’s queries and helping each other online as well as just shouting across the classroom to help each other out.
This has been a highlight for me — watching the students grow into autonomous, self-directed learners through participating in a brand new Leaving Certificate subject.
Overall, it has been an amazing experience and I am delighted to have been a Phase 1 teacher.