The rôle of metaphor in the teaching of computing; towards a taxonomy of pedagogic content knowledge

Woollard, William John (2004) The rôle of metaphor in the teaching of computing; towards a taxonomy of pedagogic content knowledge. University of Southampton, School of Education, Doctoral Thesis , 220pp.


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The teaching of computing, like all subjects, requires a range of strategies to take the curriculum content (skills, knowledge, understanding and attitudes) and put it in a form that is more easily digested by learners. Metaphor has a particular rôle in the world of computing in that: it is embedded in the design of computer hardware and software; it is part of human computer interface and it underpins important facilities such as icons, pointer actions and window displays. It is proposed that metaphor plays an important rôle in the pedagogic content knowledge (PCK) of computing teachers.

The research adopts a grounded theory approach using text analysis software to record and process a range of documents, statements, interview transcripts and text book analyses. The study is underpinned by consideration of pedagogic content knowledge. The major data source are reflections and reports of experienced and successful computer teachers working at post-16 level (grades 12-13) in 20 south-of-England schools and colleges.

It is proposed that metaphor usage can be divided into many distinct forms. The most easily recognised metaphor is the narrative theme where an object, function or system is described in the clothes of another, more familiar object, function or system. The other approaches with a metaphoric nature identified are algorithm, model, rôle play and diagram. In contrast to metaphoric, it has been identified that approaches are also based upon literal teaching.

The outcomes of the research reveal a new perspective upon the pedagogic content knowledge with respect to the teaching of computing in post-compulsory education. A model of approaches that identifies the key areas and emphasises the rôle metaphor plays in both the teaching strategies and the subject knowledge of computing, is presented. Different practices are described, compared and presented in a form that will help practising and pre-service teachers identify their own preferred approach or approaches.

Future research is proposed to determine the effectiveness and efficiency of particular metaphoric strategies. In particular, the rôle non-literal teaching approaches can make in enabling younger pupils to understand the principles of computing and how non-literal approaches can be used to ensure students are more motivated in their studies will be made.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Keywords: pedagogy, metaphor, pedagogic content knowledge, literal teaching, pedagogic metaphor, algorithm
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2361 Curriculum
Q Science > QA Mathematics > QA75 Electronic computers. Computer science
Divisions : University Structure - Pre August 2011 > School of Education > Lifelong and Work-Related Learning
ePrint ID: 11227
Accepted Date and Publication Date:
May 2004Made publicly available
Date Deposited: 09 Nov 2004
Last Modified: 31 Mar 2016 11:22

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