Social Theory

Social theory for Computer Science Education

A half-day tutorial-style workshop co-located with ICER 2017

When: Wednesday, August 16, from 13:00-17:00

Organizer: Elizabeth Patitsas (patitsas at


The goal of this tutorial-style workshop is to provide an introduction to sociological theory for a CS education audience. The workshop will provide an overview of major contemporary social theories and schools of thought (e.g. conflict theories, symbolic interactionism, structuralism, poststructuralism).

These theories are widely used in the education research world, and a typical PhD in education involves at least one course on social theory. If you came to CS education research via CS rather than via education, you may find this particularly useful for appreciating and harnessing the wider education literature. No prior background in sociology or anthropology is expected.

Part of the curriculum for the tutorial will be determined by the interests of the participants (as described in their application form). Example topics that we may discuss:

  • What is culture and how can we measure it? (e.g. if you make a change to how you teach and you think your classroom culture has been affected, and wish to study it)
  • Which groups in society benefit from a computer science education and how do they benefit?
  • How does the structure of computer science education affect who gets a CS education, and how can we improve diversity in our classrooms?
  • How do CS departments work as organizations/institutions? Tech companies? Other institutions, such as the ACM?
  • How do groups in CS (e.g. teachers, security experts) form and maintain their boundaries, and how people gain entry to these groups
  • How CS education is affected by — and may amplify — the digital divide


We’ll alternate between lessons and group activities. A few major social theories will be introduced, then participants will practice applying the theories to CS education questions. The lesson-then-activity format will repeat itself a few times.

Participants will be expected to do some readings before the workshop, which they will discuss and apply in group activities. Each participant will be expected to read one seminal work of social theory, and a collection of brief excerpts/summaries of a variety of other foundational works. The reading list will be shared with the participants upon notification of acceptance to the tutorial.

To participate:

To cover the cost of the workshop, there is a fee of 20$USD for each participant.
To participate, apply by June 16, 11:59pm, anywhere in the world (UTC-12) to:
Participants will be notified of participation by June 24.