Semantic Waves

Semantic waves are part of an educational theory by Karl Maton (Maton, 2013) that helps teachers think about what makes a good (or bad) educational experience. It can help improve lesson plans, individual activities, and provides a way to review lessons as delivered, whether face-to-face, online, written or multimedia.

Comprehensive resources about the underlying theory, legitimation code theory and its application across many disciplines can be found at Below are a range of resources around Semantic Waves applied to teaching computing well.

A Pedagogy Quick Read

Online Interactive Lectures on Semantic Waves 

Semantic Waves and teaching programming

A Research Talk on Semantic Waves

We gave a talk on semantic waves in computing at the Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium, April 2020.


Book Chapters (for teachers) on semantic waves in computing

Curzon, P., McOwan, P. W., Donohue, J., Wright, S. & Mars, D. W. (2018) Teaching of concepts. In: Sentance, S., Barendsen, E. & Schulte, C. (eds.) Computer Science Education: Perspectives on Teaching and Learning in School. London, Bloomsbury Publishing, pp. 91–108.

Curzon, P and Grover, S (to appear), Guided Exploration for Introducing Programming Concepts through Unplugged Activities, Chapter 7 of An A to Z handbook on teaching programming.

Research Papers on Semantic Waves in computing

Waite, J., Maton, K., Curzon, P. & Tuttiett, L. (2019) Unplugged Computing and Semantic Waves: Analysing Crazy Characters. In: UKICER: Proceedings of the 1st UK & Ireland Computing Education Research Conference. New York, Association for Computing Machinery. Available from:

Curzon, P, Maton, K and Waite, J (2020) Semantic waves: analysing the effectiveness of computing activities, Cambridge Computing Education Research Symposium 2020.


Research Papers on Semantic Waves in general

Maton, K. (2013) Making semantic waves: A key to cumulative knowledge-building. Linguistics and Education. 24(1), 8–22.

Maton, K. (2019) Semantic waves: Context, complexity and academic discourse. In: Martin, J. R., Maton, K. & Doran, Y. J. (eds) Accessing Academic Discourse: Systemic Functional Linguistics and Legitimation Code Theory. London, Routledge, pp. 59–85.

Also see

Legitimation Code Theory webpages

which includes a full bibliography of papers on LCT across all disciplines.