CAREER: Job Embedded Education on Computational Thinking for Rural STEM Discipline Teachers

This project will develop a professional development model that allows rural secondary teachers to learn and develop computational thinking related teaching skills with long-term support and scaffolds in place to both build their knowledge and the long-term capacity of their school districts.

Full Description: 

This project will develop a new way of engaging teachers in professional learning that is situated in their classrooms while they perform the tasks of their paid employment. Traditional professional development structures frequently place financial and professional pressures on teachers, which limits participation. Rural teachers in particular may have fewer opportunities due to barriers of distance, limited resources, and lack of available staff. In addition, they often rely on the income from second jobs to meet their financial obligations, meaning they are unable to take advantage of optional professional development opportunities offered after school hours, on weekends, or during summers because they cannot afford the lost income or travel time. Further, they are most likely to be underqualified and most likely to spend their entire teaching careers at their first district, prospectively teaching multiple generations of students from their community. The state of Hawaii has a high proportion of such rural schools and a shortage of STEM teachers, especially in the area of computer science. This project will investigate a professional development model using fading scaffolds (support that is gradually reduced over time) as part of participants' paid summer school teaching. Through this model, 20 rural teachers will learn to integrate computational thinking, coding, and science content while working with students from their own communities, with 10 becoming master teachers supporting others throughout the state. Improving teachers' ability to prepare students to benefit from opportunities in STEM and computing will advance students' opportunities for future prosperity.

This CAREER project will develop a professional development model that allows rural secondary teachers to learn and develop computational thinking related teaching skills with long-term support and scaffolds in place to both build their knowledge and the long-term capacity of their school districts. Using a design-based research approach, this project entails extensive participant interviews, video observations, and analysis of classroom artifacts. Cultural-historical activity theory analysis will be applied both collectively and within a comparative case study format to understand individual teacher development within the context of their own content and classrooms over time. These data will inform subsequent iterative design decisions to revise strategies and materials for greater meaningfulness and utility in supporting teachers' implementation of computer science and computational thinking applications. This project will enhance academic achievement of approximately 1000 students (predominantly Pacific Islanders, a group largely underrepresented in STEM fields with a unique cultural identity) in meeting the Next Generation Science Standards and Hawaii's computer science education standards.

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