Our Comm Skills talk at SIGCSE

The main reason that I attended SIGCSE this year (although I would love to go every year) was that we had a paper in presenting our work on communication skills development. A couple of years ago I was asked to design a communication skills course for computer science students, encompassing both undergraduate and postgraduate students, and international and domestic students. I had never tackled a project like this before, so unsurprisingly, I spent a lot of time first reading about what others had done, and trying to identify a methodology for how we would create a course that would be effective, and be able to be taught by computer science academics.

One of the instrumental papers that I read during this review period was by Mark Hoffman, Timothy Dansdill and David Herscovici, “Bridging writing to learn and writing in the discipline in computer science education“, which really helped me understand the specific difficulties in teaching a context-based communication skills course for computer scientists. After our presentation (I should say, Nick’s presentation – which was great), we were fortunate to meet Mark, who is has been working in this area for years, and who is working on a current NSF grant looking at exactly this topic.

It was very useful to be able to talk to people who had been working in this area for a while, and had made a considerable contribution, and I hope our work will be useful in some way – it seemed to fit in well with the specific targets of their current projects. We also made some good contacts for others that might be interested in trialling our methodology, so hopefully we will be able to report next year on some more examples.


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