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Nathan Esquenazi

We're Teaching Coding All Wrong

Budding computer scientists should learn to collaborate, not go it alone.

There’s no need to be solitary.

There’s no need to be solitary.

Photographer: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Any tech breakthrough is almost always a joint effort. To add a single feature to an iPhone app, teams of front-end engineers, user experience designers and graphic designers must work with cyber security specialists, back-end developers and iOS developers — just for starters. That means that today’s best engineers are prodigious collaborators and communicators. And yet we still train too many prospective coders to work alone.

From their first day in the classroom, computer science students are nudged to value individual successes over team victories. Most assignments are completed and submitted solo. While liberal arts majors are drilled in methods of communication, and vocational programs like business and medicine feature tons of group work, many computer science programs prize technical output over so-called “soft skills” like collaboration and communication. Conflict resolution and critical thinking get short shrift.