Beginning work on epistemological dynamics in programming

I’m prepar­ing for my com­pre­hen­sive exam­i­na­tions (comps), which are essen­tially three in-depth essays writ­ten and revised under the direc­tion of a fac­ulty mem­ber. My sec­ond comp is actu­ally my work on a sta­tis­ti­cal graph­ics pack­age called gra­nova, but I’ll be dis­cussing that sub­ject in another post. Here, I want to talk about my third comp, which will hope­fully become the spring­board to a dis­ser­ta­tion proposal.

If I’m doing my job right, this post will grow into a much larger series of posts, and hope­fully (when well-watered, cared for, and nour­ished) a dis­ser­ta­tion. To get there, here are some of the core ques­tions I think I’ll need to address.

  1. What are epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics? What do I mean when I’m talk­ing about epis­te­molo­gies and epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics? What does that idea do as a tech­ni­cal construct?
  2. Where do epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics come from? What’s their gen­e­sis as a research con­struct? More to the point, what do they allow us to explain and predict?
  3. Why do epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics mat­ter for learn­ing to pro­gram? This has to go beyond sim­ply argu­ing that “they mat­ter.” Many, many things affect the ways indi­vid­u­als learn to pro­gram. The sub­ques­tions here sur­round how we can use the study of epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics in programming?
    1. Can they push research efforts for­ward, illu­mi­nat­ing erst­while unseen problems?
    2. Can they push the the­o­ret­i­cal dis­cus­sion for­ward, explain­ing the oth­er­wise un– or underexplained?
    3. Finally, can they inform ped­a­gogy? Can epis­te­mo­log­i­cal dynam­ics help us craft edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ences around pro­gram­ming that attract, retain, and empower students?

As part of my work prepar­ing for the 2011 Inter­na­tional Com­put­ing Edu­ca­tion Research Con­fer­ence (ICER), I’ll be work­ing through a pre­sen­ta­tion that tries to flesh out these issues. The goal there is to craft a form of these dis­ser­ta­tion ideas that con­fer­ence atten­dees can cri­tique. Keep your eyes on the blog as I con­tinue to expand my ideas and hope­fully tackle—or refine—the above roadmap of questions.

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