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.