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

Research Talks on Semantic Waves

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

We also gave a talk about unplugged computing and semantic waves at the Raspberry Pi Computing Education Research Seminar in June 2020.


Book Chapters (for teachers) on semantic waves in computing

Curzon, P and Grover, S (2020) Guided Exploration for Introducing Programming Concepts through Unplugged Activities, In Grover, S. (eds)  An A to Z handbook on teaching programming. ISBN 10: 1734662719  ISBN 13: 9781734662719

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.

Research Papers on Semantic Waves in computing

Curzon, P.,  Waite, J., Maton, K.,  & Donohue, J. (2020). Using Semantic Waves to Analyse the Effectiveness of Unplugged Computing Activities InWiPSCE ’20: The 15th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education, October 28–30, 2010, Online. ACM, New York.In Press.

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

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:

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.