Reaching Across the Hallway: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Teaching Computer Science in Rural Schools

This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science.

Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education is a national priority with particular attention to increasing the number of teachers prepared to deliver computer science courses. For rural schools, that collectively serve more than 10 million students, it is especially challenging. Rural schools find it difficult to recruit and retain STEM teachers that are prepared to teach computer science and computational thinking. This project will develop, test, and refine a "train-the-trainer" professional development model for rural teacher-leaders. The project will build teachers' self-efficacy to deliver computer science concepts and practices into middle school social studies classrooms. The project is led by CodeVA (a statewide non-profit in Virginia), in partnership with TERC (a STEM-focused national research institution) and the University of South Florida College of Education, and in collaboration with six rural school districts in Virginia. The project goal is to design and develop a professional development model that supports teachers integrating culturally relevant computer science skills and practices into their middle school social studies classrooms, thereby broadening rural students' participation in computer science. The professional development model will be designed and developed around meeting rural teachers, where they are, geographically, economically, and culturally. The model will also be sustainable and will work within the resource constraints of the rural school district. The model will also be built on strategies that will broadly spread CS education while building rural capacity.

The project will use a mixed-methods research approach to understand the model's potential to build capacity for teaching CS in rural schools. The research design is broken down into four distinct phases; planning/development prototyping, piloting and initial dissemination, an efficacy study, and analysis, and dissemination. The project will recruit 45 teacher-leaders and one district-level instructional coach, 6th and 7th-grade teachers, and serve over 1900 6th and 7th-grade students. Participants will be recruited from the rural Virginia school districts of Buchanan, Russell, Charlotte, Halifax, and Northampton. The research question for phase 1 is what is each district's existing practice around computer science education (if any) and social studies education? Phases 2, 3 and 4 research will examine the effectiveness of professional development on teacher leadership and the CS curricular integration. Phase 4 research will examine teacher efficacy to implement the professional development independently, enabling district teachers to integrate CS into their social studies classes. Teacher data sources for each phase include interviews with administrators and teachers, teacher readiness surveys, observations, an examination of artifacts, and CS/CT content interviews. Student data will consist of classroom observation and student attitude surveys. Quantitative and qualitative data will be triangulated to address each set of research questions and provide a reliability check on findings. Qualitative data, such as observations/video, and interview data will be analyzed through codes that represent expected themes and patterns related to teachers' and coaches' experiences. Project results will be communicated through presentations at conferences such as Special Interest Group on Computer Science Education, the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA), the National Council for Social Studies (NCSS), and the American Educational Research Association. Lesson plans will be made available on the project website, and links will be provided through publications and newsletters such as the NCSS Middle-Level Learner, NCSS Social Education, CSTA the Voice, the NSF-funded CADREK12 website and the NSF-funded STEM Video Showcase.

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