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A Competency-Based Approach to CS Teacher Professional Growth


In 2019-2020, the Friday Institute Computer Science for All team and its partners developed a set of core competencies to support and scaffold competency-based pathways for Computer Science (CS) teacher professional development and growth.

Funded by a 2019 Google CS-ER Award, the Aligning Opportunities: Developing Core Competencies for CS Educators project provided the foundation for this ongoing work to address a critical problem in the K-12 CS Education movement — The growth of the K-12 CS Education movement in recent years has outpaced, worked around, and in some ways, broken our traditional teacher preparation systems.

The outcomes of this problem can be seen through:

  • Limited pre-service programs for CS teachers
  • Inconsistent policies and processes for CS teacher licensure and certification
  • The large and expanding number of new CS teachers who are well-prepared to facilitate student learning of introductory CS curriculum, but who lack the structured pathways for ongoing professional growth in this new content area. 


An Extension of Teacher Standards

These core competencies were developed to extend the newly updated CSTA CS Teacher Standards (2019) from providing guidance and benchmarks to describing teacher deliverables and artifacts to demonstrate mastery of standards.


  • Provide aspirational goals to guide professional learning
  • Explain what CS teachers should know and be able to do


  • Provide a framework for professional learning activities
  • Describe deliverables and artifacts for CS teachers demonstrate mastery of standards

A Competency-Based Approach supports CS teachers to demonstrate they are highly-capable, not just highly-qualified

Explore the Competencies

A cross-disciplinary team of experts (in computer science, teacher preparation, competency-based education, educator preparation, education policy, and CS professional learning) worked together through a deep dive into CS Teacher Standards to inform a framework for demonstrable, observable competencies aligned to standards.  Through an iterative process of design, research, review, followed by feedback loops from educators, policy makers, PD providers, and colleges of education, two tools were developed:

  • A core set of competencies, distilled into a simplified, concise framework that can be used to inform a variety of CS teacher programs
  • The core competencies mapped to the 2019 CSTA CS Teacher Standards to demonstrate the  competencies in practice to describe deliverables and artifacts

The competencies are designed with two user-focused elements in mind:

  • Flexibility for use by multiple audiences
    • CS Teachers and School Administrators developing professional growth plans
    • CS Professional Learning Providers to cross-walk and align PD program activities
    • Colleges of Education developing pre-service CS teacher preparation programs
    • Policy Makers developing licensure, certification, and PD policy and procedures
  • Usability for teachers with differing levels of expertise
    • From “New to CS” teachers to teacher with many years of CS experience
    • With varying preparation and professional learning experiences


Tools to Explore the Competencies:
We encourage you to explore the documents and tools below.  These tools offer simple planning documents for you to begin to implement a competency-based approach to your programs, your professional learning, and your CS education policies.

CSTA CS Teacher Standards
CS Educator Core Competencies – simplified version
Core Competencies mapped to Standards

Teacher Professional Growth Planning Tool (editable .xls)
CS Program Provider Alignment and Planning Tool (editable .xls)


Let’s Talk

We continue to seek collaborative partner organizations interested in extending this approach from a framework and set of tools, to a component of CS teacher preparation, professional learning, and certification programs.  Contact us to talk more about ways to partner and collaborate.

Let’s Talk!


Computer Science For All Computer Science For All

Project Team

Dr Dave Frye Dr Dave Frye

Dr Eric N Wiebe Dr Eric N Wiebe

Dr Tiffany Barnes Dr Tiffany Barnes

James Birkett James Birkett

Sam Morris Sam Morris

Sheenal D. Young Sheenal D. Young