Developing a Suite of Standards-based Instructionally Supportive Tools for Middle School Computer Science

This project will develop a set of educative resources, assessment tools and teacher professional development (PD) activities to support teachers in developing knowledge of CS standards and improving their instructional pedagogy. Teachers will learn to use formative assessments related to these standards to determine student understanding. Improved CS instruction that is responsive to the needs and challenges of the student population is particularly critical in school districts with a large population of students who are typically underserved and under-represented in computer science. The project, a partnership between SRI International and the Milwaukee Public School District, will provide professional development experiences tied to standards instead of a specific curriculum in order to support diverse teachers teaching a variety of computer science curricula using different programming languages. Teachers will receive training via a combination of virtual webinars and face-to-face instruction. Teachers will have opportunities to evaluate their own teaching and measure their students' progress towards the standards.

Full Description: 

As computing has become an integral part of the world and the workforce, demand for computer science (CS) education in K-12 classrooms is growing. States and school districts in the U.S. are increasing CS course offerings, increasing the need for teachers with CS content and teaching knowledge. However, many CS teachers are not originally certified to teach computer science and often lack the necessary tools, resources, and training. This project will develop a set of educative resources, assessment tools and teacher professional development (PD) activities to support teachers in developing knowledge of CS standards and improving their instructional pedagogy. Teachers will learn to use formative assessments related to these standards to determine student understanding. Improved CS instruction that is responsive to the needs and challenges of the student population is particularly critical in school districts with a large population of students who are typically underserved and under-represented in computer science. The project, a partnership between SRI International and the Milwaukee Public School District, will provide professional development experiences tied to standards instead of a specific curriculum in order to support diverse teachers teaching a variety of computer science curricula using different programming languages. Teachers will receive training via a combination of virtual webinars and face-to-face instruction. Teachers will have opportunities to evaluate their own teaching and measure their students' progress towards the standards.

The research will examine how these teacher professional development activities can help improve CS content and pedagogical knowledge for teachers. The team will use a mixed-methods design to answer three research questions: 1) How can CS standards-aligned educative instructional supports be designed to be informative and useful to middle school CS teachers using different CS curricula and what professional development (PD) do teachers need to be able to use and benefit from these educative instructional supports? 2) What are the different ways in which teachers adapt and use the standards-aligned educative resources and instructionally supportive CS assessment tools in their CS classes? 3) How can standards-aligned instructional supports and teacher PD improve middle school teachers' CS pedagogical content knowledge and improve their implementation of standards-aligned CS instruction? To answer research question one, the team will use an Evidence-Centered Design approach to systematically unpack each standard and develop aligned instructionally supportive assessments and scoring guides. Data analysis for research question one includes qualitative analysis of student cognitive interviews to determine students' proficiencies and challenges, analysis of teacher PD surveys, inter-rater reliability analysis of teacher and researcher scores on assessments, psychometric analysis of student responses for reliability and validity evidence, analysis of classroom observations of teachers responding to data from assessments, and analysis of teacher interviews providing feedback on the usefulness of the PD provided and the assessment tasks and scoring guides that have been developed. For research questions two and three, the project will collect and analyze data from multiple sources, including teacher interviews, classroom observations, teacher PCK (pedagogical content knowledge) surveys, and teacher logs to determine the impacts of the project. Data analysis for questions two and three will include analysis of shifts in teacher PCK between the start of year two and the end of year three, qualitative analysis of observations of teachers' instructional practices, and analysis of teacher interviews reflecting on individual formative assessment practices and decisions. The project will recruit 16 teachers of varying experience levels. Additionally, upto 450 middle school students will be recruited with a significant number of female, African-American, and Hispanic students represented in the sample. Project evaluation will examine the overall achievement of program goals and objectives. Project results will be disseminated widely at national conferences and through submissions to refereed journals. The project resources and instructionally supportive tools including PD Webinars will be made available online to school districts and teachers.

The Discovery Research preK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools. Projects in the DRK-12 program build on fundamental research in STEM education and prior research and development efforts that provide theoretical and empirical justification for proposed projects.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

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