Competencies in Computational Thinking: Perspectives from Germany

During October 2014, I spent a week at Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany) for a workshop sponsored by the German Ministry of Education & Research on modeling and measuring competencies in higher education. (KoKoHS) With my colleagues, Leigh Graves Wolf and Jon Good from Michigan State University we collaborated with two German computer science educators Marc Berges (Technische Universität München) and Melanie Margaritis (University of Paderborn) on computational thinking in the K-12 classroom. Our current collaboration specifically focuses on developing and validating a competency assessment framework for incorporating computational thinking in K-12 classrooms. It has been fascinating to learn about broader CS Education efforts in Germany. For example, doctoral students in computer science departments can undertake education research projects for their thesis/dissertation. Additionally I learned computer science also plays a different curriculur role depending on the German federal state; for example, Bavaria requires mandatory computer science for grades 6, 7, 9, and 10 while it is optional during 11-12 grades.  (For more on the Bavarian initiatives see: Hubwieser, 2012)  On the other hand, computer science is optional in North Rhine-Westphalia state for grades 7,8,9,12 and 13. The recent legislative efforts around the United State to have computer science count as a math/science graduation requirement is a step in the right direction, but a lot more needs to be done, especially to broaden participation of underrepresented minorities in computer science.

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