Developing a novel Precision Teaching intervention to enhance programming skills for HE students in science courses.

This funding model includes a 36 month fully funded PhD Studentship, in-line with the Research Council values, which comprises a tax-free stipend paid monthly (2024/5 - £19,237) per year and a Full Time Fee Scholarship for up to 3 years, subject to you making satisfactory progression within your PhD. 

All applicants will receive the same stipend irrespective of fee status.

Application Closing Date: 
23:59 on Tuesday 30th April 2024 for a start date of the 2nd September 2024.

How to Apply 

To apply, please complete the project proposal form,ensuring that you quote the project reference, and then complete the online application where you will be required to upload your proposal in place of a personal statement as a pdf document. 

You will also be required to upload two references, at least one being an academic reference, and your qualification/s of entry (Bachelor/Masters certificate/s and transcript/s). 

Project Title: Developing a novel Precision Teaching intervention to enhance programming skills for HE students in science courses

Project Lead: Dr Angel Tan

Reference: PTP

Project Description
Programming is a highly desired skill in the 21st-century labour market. With the growing popularity of programming courses and modern platforms for statistical analysis (e.g., R and RStudio), which require programming skills, Higher Education Institutions have thus begun a movement towards enhancing programming skills among students. However, teaching this skill remains challenging due to students’ mixed programming backgrounds and the complexity of programming languages. Most programming courses today focus on basic programming knowledge without much emphasis on developing students’ analytic and problem-solving skills. This strategy often results in programming courses being regarded as hard, and students who struggle to apply the skills effectively.

This PhD aims to develop and evaluate an online intervention to support university students in learning to programme. The intervention will build on elements of precision teaching to reinforce programming skills and facilitate knowledge transfer. Precision teaching entails training to meet specific learning objectives of units sequenced with increasing difficulties. It involves continuous evaluation of learning progress until a learner can successfully perform the skill with high accuracy and speed. 

We will test the effectiveness and feasibility of the intervention through pre- and post-intervention measures. We will also collect participants’ feedback to help refine the intervention components for future use. The project will have a direct impact on the learning and teaching experiences in programming. The resources developed through this project will support students who intend to learn to program and offer a practical educational tool for teaching staff.

Anticipated Findings and Contribution to Knowledge

The contributions to knowledge of this project are multi-pronged. Firstly, academically, we are advancing the literature by extending the application of PT within HEI. Previous literature has shown that PT can enhance the learning of various skills, including numeracy (Chiesa & Robertson, 2000; Hayden & McLaughlin, 2004), statistics (Tan et al., 2022a), and cognitive skills (Tan et al., 2022b). However, PT has been used mainly in primary and secondary education, rather than higher education possibly due to its focus on improving basic skills like reading, handwriting, and basic mathematics computation only (e.g. Bashore & McLaughlin, 1995; Griffin & Murtagh, 2015). This research project is novel in extending the application of PT within HEI to teach programming skills. 

Secondly, instrumentally, we are addressing issues in the provision of education. Until recently, teaching programming was a challenge for both undergraduate students acquiring the skills and lecturers developing approaches for their teaching to be successful. The findings of this work contribute to research in HEI investigating teaching approaches for developing programming skills. At the same time, the findings can impact the academic community across the world by suggesting approaches for teaching programming skills that can be easily absorbed and benefit the wider academic community.

Thirdly, internally at BCU, we are thinking differently (I AM BCU’s value) by innovating the teaching approach for programming. Research findings of this work will shed light on understanding the modern requirements in teaching science courses and how PT can help develop programming skills. This project aligns with the principle of research-informed teaching to demonstrate that there can be a synergy between research and teaching.