Review by Dr Billy Wong

7 Dec 2015, 6:00

Dr Billy Wong

Lecturer in education studies, University of Roehampton school of education

What are you working on?

My current research focuses on computer education in light of the new 2014 computing curriculum in England that demands the teaching of more technical and programming skills to younger children. I’ve been working with a colleague, Peter Kemp, and we are currently exploring how competent young people (aged 13-19) engage with computing and technology.

We are drawing on semi-structured interviews with 32 young people across two computing summer schools, and looking at the National Pupil Database (NPD) on enrolment and attainment across A-level subjects, with a focus on computer science. This will give us a comprehensive overview of the subject patterns and outcomes of students, and how that might vary by demographic variables.

What is interesting about this research?

There is an expectation that young people “must” be good with technologies. We want to unpack this assumption and explore the different ways in which they can engage with the digital world. The renewed government emphasis on computing education, alongside the increasing need of our future population to be digitally literate, has meant that this field of research is undergoing a generational change. For example, the increasing use of smartphones, tablets and laptops in the classroom (as well as the forthcoming BBC “microbit”) is evidence that our education continues to be shaped by technology.

What do you hope its impact will be?

Our research allows us to map the trajectories of competent young people in relation to their digital participation. By understanding the routes taken by these students, we will be in a stronger position to identify the type of influences or activities pivotal in their digital pathways. Only then can we start to derive feasible plans or initiatives to introduce and support other students in the fields of computing and technology.

We hope our work will influence current and future developments of computing education – for example, its curriculum and content. Our research will also provide us with evidence to comment and critique on the government’s latest decision to drop information technology as a subject, leaving computer science as the only option for digital technology.

What might the early findings show?

We are only at the beginning of data analysis but early indications suggest that there is a gender difference (which is unsurprising) in terms of young people’s educational and career aspirations in computing or technology. Our NPD data also suggests that students who do well in computer science at A-level tend to do well in maths and the other sciences (again, not too surprising). In time, we will tease out the relationships between subject choice and attainment.

Is there any other research that you would recommend?

Research in this area is scarce, particularly in the UK context, but we find the works by Julian Sefton-Green and Sonia Livingstone to be useful in our study.

What does Dr Wong’s most recent research say?

An article by Dr Wong looking into the educational success of British Chinese and Indian students has recently been published as part of the Oxford Review of Education.

It looks at ethnic minority students who excel as opposed to those that underachieve.

The paper includes data from four discussion groups and 23 interviews with British Chinese and Indian students Ð recognised as the ‘model minority’.

An abstract of the paper reads: ‘Although high expectations by self and by others can positively contribute to the educational success of British Chinese and Indian students, inflated expectations can also generate a continuous sense of insecurity.

‘Model minority students must contemplate the fear of failure and the potential damage they could inflict on the reputation of their family. Implications of the identity of model minority for students, teachers and policy are suggested.’

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