Dr. Sue Sentance is the Chief Learning Officer at the Raspberry Pi Foundation. She is also a visiting lecturer in Computer Science Education at King’s College London. Sue has dedicated her career to improving the way we teach and learn computing in school; from creating her world-renowned teaching approach called PRIMM; to supporting teachers in their professional development. Dr. Sue Sentance, Chief Learning Officer of Raspberry Pi Foundation received a Suffrage Science award for Mathematics and Computing in 2020.
Woman in Science
The Suffrage Science award scheme celebrates women in science. Sue is being recognized for her achievements in computer science and computing education research. She also promotes computing to the next generation.
Sue is an experienced teacher and teacher educator with an academic background in artificial intelligence, computer science and education. She has made a substantial contribution to research in computing education in school over the last ten years; publishing widely on the teaching of programming, teacher professional development, physical computing and curriculum change. In 2017 Sue received the BERA Public Engagement and Impact Award for her services to computing education. Part of Sue’s role at the Raspberry Pi Foundation is leading the Gender Balance in Computing research programme; which investigates ways to increase the number of girls and young women taking up computing at school level.
Dr. Hannah Dee, the previous award recipient who nominated Sue, says: “The work she does is important — researchers need to look at what happens in schools, particularly when we consider gender. Girls are put off computing long before they get to universities, and an understanding of how children learn about computing and the ways in which we can support girls in tech is going to be vital to reverse this trend.”
The PRIMM Method
The PRIMM method, as Sue explained, is about supporting students to explore programming in an environment where failure is reduced. PRIMM is an approach that you can use in the classroom for teaching programming. It stands for predict, run, investigate, modify, and make. “Rather than students sitting there staring at the blank screen writing a program to calculate the amount of water in a swimming pool; in the PRIMM model the teacher actually writes the program. The students then predict what they think the program might do and then run it to test their prediction. They can then explore the program without having to write it from scratch themselves. This approach offers support and removes the emotional anxiety caused by continually-failing buggy programs. Gradually as the students modify the program; change it and make it their own; they become more comfortable with how it works.”
The PRIMM approach for structuring a coding exercise.
This five-step acronym takes students from sizing up a piece of code, to modifying it; to finally writing some code of their own. Here’s how it works. The link also includes an interactive demo showing the approach in action.