Teaching algorithms in upper secondary education: a study of teachers' pedagogical content knowledge

Jacqueline Nijenhuis-Voogt*, Durdane Bayram-Jacobs, Paulien C Meijer, Erik Barendsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Context: Computing education is expanding, while the teaching of algorithms is less well studied.

Objective: The aim of this study was to examine teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) for teaching algorithms.

Method: We conducted semi-structured interviews with seven computer science (CS) teachers in upper secondary education (students aged 15–18). The data were analyzed qualitatively.

Findings: We found two patterns of variation in teachers’ PCK. First, we detected variation in the teachers’ goals related to their view of algorithms: they either focused on “thinking” about the algorithm as an object, or focused on “thinking and making”, where the algorithm is also regarded as a program. Second, we found variation in teachers’ knowledge about responding to differences between students, which may be generic or topic-specific. Furthermore, our findings reveal that teachers consider class discussions to play a significant role as an instructional method for provoking reflection.

Implications: Our findings regarding PCK may be beneficial for the development of teacher education and professionalization activities for CS teachers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages33
JournalComputer Science Education
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Jun 2021


  • Computer science education
  • algorithms
  • pedagogical content knowledge (PCK)
  • teacher knowledge
  • secondary education
  • PCK
  • K-12


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