Computer Science

Getting Unstuck: Designing and Evaluating Teacher Resources to Support Conceptual and Creative Fluency with Programming

The project will create opportunities for teachers to develop programming content knowledge and new understandings of the creative possibilities in computer science education, thereby increasing opportunities for students to develop conceptual and creative fluency with programming.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908110
Funding Period: 
Mon, 07/01/2019 to Wed, 06/30/2021
Full Description: 

The project will create opportunities for teachers to develop programming content knowledge and new understandings of the creative possibilities in computer science education, thereby increasing opportunities for students to develop conceptual and creative fluency with programming. K-12 introductory programming experiences are often highly scaffolded, and it can be challenging for students to transition from constrained exercises to open-ended programming activities encountered later in-and out of-school. Teachers can provide critical support to help students solve problems and develop the cognitive, social, and emotional capacities required for conceptually and creatively complex programming challenges. Teachers - particularly elementary and middle school teachers, especially in rural and Title I schools - often lack the programming content knowledge, skills, and practices needed to support deeper and more meaningful programming experiences for students. Professional development opportunities can cultivate teacher expertise, especially when supported by curricular materials that bridge teachers' professional learning and students' classroom learning. This research responds to these needs, addressing key national priorities for increasing access to high-quality K-12 computer science education for all students through teacher professional development.

The project will involve the design and evaluation of (1) an online learning experience for teachers to develop conceptual and creative fluency through short, daily programming prompts (featuring the Scratch programming environment), and (2) educative curricular materials for the classroom (based on the online experience). The online experience and curricular materials will be developed in collaboration with three 4th through 6th-grade rural or Title I teachers. The project will evaluate teacher learning in the online experience using mixed-methods analyses of pre/post-survey data of teachers' perceived expertise and quantitative analyses of teachers' programs and evolving conceptual knowledge. Three additional 4th through 6th-grade teachers will pilot the curricular materials in their classrooms. The six pilot teachers will maintain field journals about their experiences and will participate in interviews, evaluating use of the resources in practice. An ethnography of one teacher's classroom will be developed to further contribute to understandings of the classroom-level resources in action, including students' experiences and learning. Student learning will be evaluated through student interviews and analyses of student projects. Project outcomes will inform how computer science conceptual knowledge and creative fluency can be developed both for teachers and their students' knowledge and fluency that will be critical for students' future success in work and life.

Designing and Researching a Program for Preparing Teachers as Facilitators of Computational Making Activities in Classroom and Informal Learning Environments

This project will study a model of pre-service teacher preparation that is designed to to increase teachers' and students' skills and confidence with computational thinking and develop teachers as designers of inclusive learning environments to promote computational thinking. The project will engage elementary (grades K-5) pre-service teachers (who are concurrently involved in school-based teacher preparation programs) as facilitators in an existing family technology program called Family Creative Learning (FCL).

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908351
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sat, 07/31/2021
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This project will study a model of pre-service teacher preparation that is designed to to increase teachers' and students' skills and confidence with computational thinking and develop teachers as designers of inclusive learning environments to promote computational thinking. The project will build teachers' recognition of diverse family learning and cultural resources. The project will engage elementary (grades K-5) pre-service teachers (who are concurrently involved in school-based teacher preparation programs) as facilitators in an existing family technology program called Family Creative Learning (FCL). This program is embedded in the Denver Public Library (DPL) network of makerspaces. The project will study pre-service elementary teachers' computational thinking and facilitation practices and its impact on children's learning across informal and classroom settings where pre-service teachers concurrently conduct their field work. The project team will develop research-based resources, tools, and activities that help to cultivate these key facilitation practices. These practices will include how to develop trust and relationships, to deepen participation and interests, and to ask questions that encourage inquiry. These resources will be useful for teacher preparation and for staff at informal learning organizations with making and tinkering spaces promoting STEM learning, specifically computational thinking. The project will disseminate resources through current relationships with PBS Kids and through networks of educators such as MakerEd, Connected Learning Alliance, and technology education networks.

The project will research: (1) what features of pre-service teachers' experiences preparing for and facilitating the FCL program at DPL supports or limits their development of facilitation practices and computational thinking; (2) study how teachers and participants learn and develop in their joint engagement with computational thinking through making; (3) examine how teachers carry over and influence student's learning in their fieldwork within classroom settings. The project team will use ethnographic methods to develop comparative case studies of pre-service teachers' development and the impact on student learning across formal and informal learning settings. These methods include observation, interviews, and artifact collection to closely document what supports new facilitators to engage in facilitation practices of computational thinking activities and its consequential impact on student and family learning. An external advisory board with relevant expertise will provide iterative feedback and assess the project's progress in meeting its goals. The project results have implications for teaching practices across formal and informal learning spaces that aim to engage diverse participants in interest-driven, peer-supported, and project-based STEM learning experiences.

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STEM Sea, Air, and Land Remotely Operated Vehicle Design Challenges for Rural, Middle School Youth

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The project will integrate engineering design, technology and society, electrical knowledge, and computer science to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Award Number: 
1812913
Funding Period: 
Mon, 04/01/2019 to Thu, 03/31/2022
Full Description: 

This project provides middle school students in a high poverty rural area in Northern Florida an opportunity to pursue post-secondary study in STEM by providing quality and relevant STEM design. The design challenges will be contextualized within a rural region (i.e., GIS mapping and drones used for surveying large ranches, farms, and forests), producing a series of six design challenge modules and two competition design challenges with accompanying teacher guides for preparing relevant STEM modules for 90 middle school aged students. The project will integrate 4 components: (a) engineering design, (b) technology and society, (c) electrical knowledge, and (d) computer science. The project aims to improve middle school students' spatial reasoning through experiences embedded within engineering design challenges.

Collaborative partners consisting of school level, college level, and STEM professionals will develop the design challenges, using best practices from STEM learning research, with the intent of advancing STEM pathway awareness and participation among historically underserved students in the rural, high-poverty region served by North Florida Community College. Data regarding student outcomes will be collected before and after implementation, including measures of content mastery, spatial reasoning skills, self-efficacy, attitudes and interests in STEM, and academic achievement in science courses. Assessment of the data will involve the research and development phases of six curriculum modules and (2) an intervention study following a delayed-treatment design model.

There is a growing need for the increased broadening of STEM by underserved groups. By increasing the number of rural students who participate in STEM hands on, interdisciplinary experiences, the project has the potential to expand interest and competency in mathematics and science and expand the number of students who are aware of STEM career pathways.

Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (Collaborative Research: Riordan)

This project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. Students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1812660
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/01/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 

Many teachers want to adapt their instruction to meet student learning needs, yet lack the time to regularly assess and analyze students' developing understandings. The Supporting Teachers in Responsive Instruction for Developing Expertise in Science (STRIDES) project takes advantage of advanced technologies to support science teachers to rapidly respond to diverse student ideas in their classrooms. In this project students will use web-based curriculum units to engage with models, simulations, and virtual experiments to write multiple explanations for standards-based science topics. Advanced technologies (including natural language processing) will be used to assess students' written responses and summaries their science understanding in real-time. The project will also design planning tools for teachers that will make suggestions relevant research-proven instructional strategies based on the real-time analysis of student responses. Research will examine how teachers make use of the feedback and suggestions to customize their instruction. Further we will study how these instructional changes help students develop coherent understanding of complex science topics and ability to make sense of models and graphs. The findings will be used to refine the tools that analyze the student essays and generate the summaries; improve the research-based instructional suggestions in the planning tool; and strengthen the online interface for teachers. The tools will be incorporated into open-source, freely available online curriculum units. STRIDES will directly benefit up to 30 teachers and 24,000 students from diverse school settings over four years.

Leveraging advances in natural language processing methods, the project will analyze student written explanations to provide fine-grained summaries to teachers about strengths and weaknesses in student work. Based on the linguistic analysis and logs of student navigation, the project will then provide instructional customizations based on learning science research, and study how teachers use them to improve student progress. Researchers will annually conduct at least 10 design or comparison studies, each involving up to 6 teachers and 300-600 students per year. Insights from this research will be captured in automated scoring algorithms, empirically tested and refined customization activities, and data logging techniques that can be used by other research and curriculum design programs to enable teacher customization.

Engaging High School Students in Computer Science with Co-Creative Learning Companions (Collaborative Research: Magerko)

This research investigates how state-of-the-art creative and pedagogical agents can improve students' learning, attitudes, and engagement with computer science. The project will be conducted in high school classrooms using EarSketch, an online computer science learning environments that engages learners in making music with JavaScript or Python code.

Award Number: 
1814083
Funding Period: 
Sat, 09/15/2018 to Wed, 08/31/2022
Full Description: 
This research investigates how state-of-the-art creative and pedagogical agents can improve students' learning, attitudes, and engagement with computer science. The project will be conducted in high school classrooms using EarSketch, an online computer science learning environments that engages over 160,000 learners worldwide in making music with JavaScript or Python code. The researchers will build the first co-creative learning companion, Cai, that will scaffold students with pedagogical strategies that include making use of learner code to illustrate abstraction and modularity, suggesting new code to scaffold new concepts, providing help and hints, and explaining its decisions. This work will directly address the national need to develop computing literacy as a core STEM skill.
 
The proposed work brings together an experienced interdisciplinary team to investigate the hypothesis that adding a co-creative learning companion to an expressive computer science learning environment will improve students' computer science learning (as measured by code sophistication and concept knowledge), positive attitudes towards computing (self-efficacy and motivation), and engagement (focused attention and involvement during learning). The iterative design and development of the co-creative learning companion will be based on studies of human collaboration in EarSketch classrooms, the findings in the co-creative literature and virtual agents research, and the researchers' observations of EarSketch use in classrooms. This work will address the following research questions: 1) What are the foundational pedagogical moves that a co-creative learning companion for expressive programming should perform?; 2) What educational strategies for a co-creative learning companion most effectively scaffold learning, favorable attitudes toward computing, and engagement?; and 3) In what ways does a co-creative learning companion in EarSketch increase computer science learning, engagement, and positive attitudes toward computer science when deployed within the sociocultural context of a high school classroom? The proposed research has the potential to transform our understanding of how to support student learning in and broaden participation through expressive computing environments.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: Ellis)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1814033
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.

Design and Development of Transmedia Narrative-based Curricula to Engage Children in Scientific Thinking and Engineering Design (Collaborative Research: McGinnis-Cavanaugh)

This project will address the need for engineering resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. This project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1813572
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2018 to Thu, 06/30/2022
Project Evaluator: 
Collaborative for Educational Services (CES)
Full Description: 

Engineering is an important component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). However, resources for supporting teachers in implementing these standards are scarce. This project will address the need for resources by applying an innovative pedagogy called Imaginative Education (IE) to create middle school engineering curricula. In IE, developmentally appropriate narratives are used to design learning environments that help learners engage with content and organize their knowledge productively. To fully exploit the potential of this pedagogy, this project will combine IE with transmedia storytelling. In transmedia storytelling, different elements of a narrative are spread across a variety of formats (such as books, websites, new articles, videos and other media) in a way that creates a coordinated experience for the user. Once created, the curricula will be implemented in classrooms to research its impact on (1) increasing learners' capacities to engage in both innovative and direct application of engineering concepts, and (2) improving learners' science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) identity. 

This research will be led by Smith College and Springfield Technical Community College in collaboration with Springfield (MA) Public Schools (SPS). Additional expertise in evaluating the findings will be provided by the Collaborative for Educational Services and an external advisory board of leaders in STEM education and transmedia storytelling. The project will result in the development of a transmedia learning environment that includes two NGSS-aligned, interdisciplinary engineering units and seven lessons that integrate science and engineering. The research study will be implemented in four phases in eight SPS middle schools. Approximately 900 students will participate each year. In Phase 1, the project team will collaborate with SPS teachers to create engineering units, lessons, and standards-based achievement measures. In Phase 2, teachers in the treatment group will participate in professional development (PD) workshops covering IE, transmedia learning environments, structure of the curriculum, and connections to NGSS. In Phase 3 the curricula will be implemented in treatment classrooms and both treatment and control group students will be assessed. In Phase 4, testing and assessment will continue in SPS schools and will be expanded to rural and suburban classrooms. Teachers in these classrooms will use online multimedia PD that will ensure scalability and mirrors the structure and content of in-person PD. Data analysis will provide evidence of whether this imaginative and transmedia educational approach improves students' capacities for using engineering concepts and enhances their STEM identity.

Developing a Culturally Responsive Computing Instrument for Underrepresented Students

This EAGER project aims to conduct a study designed to operationalize a culturally responsive computing framework, from theory to empirical application, by exploring what factors can be identified and later used to develop items for an instrument to assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in computing and technology-related fields and careers.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1822346
Funding Period: 
Thu, 02/15/2018 to Fri, 01/31/2020
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

This EAGER project aims to conduct a study designed to operationalize a culturally responsive computing framework, from theory to empirical application, by exploring what factors can be identified and later used to develop items for an instrument to assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in computing and technology-related fields and careers. The project explores the constructs of culturally responsive computing across youths of diverse gender and racial identities (i.e., White, African American, Latino, Native American, Alaskan Native boys and girls) using a culturally responsive, participatory action research approach.

The project explores and develops the factor structure of an instrument on culturally responsive computing with diverse middle and high schoolers of intersecting identities. It uses culturally responsive methodologies to co-create an instrument for later validation that will assess youths' self-efficacy and self-perceptions in technology. The project will explore Culturally Response Computing constructs across variables by conducting observations, focus groups and interviews, and collect context data and information from teachers and students that will contribute to a series of case examples. The work involves a two-phase mixed-methods research study focused on assembling evidence to assess, design and validate a Culturally Responsive Computing Framework from theory to empirical application. A total of 50 students and teachers from four geographically diverse rural and urban areas and racial ethnic backgrounds will participate in co-creating constructs.

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Project MAPLE: Makerspaces Promoting Learning and Engagement

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies.

Award Number: 
1721236
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Sat, 08/31/2019
Full Description: 

The project plans to develop and study a series of metacognitive strategies that support learning and engagement for struggling middle school students during makerspace experiences. The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. The study will focus narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in design learning through the use of metacognitive strategies. The project plans to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically. Project strategies, curricula, and other resources will be disseminated through existing outreach websites, research briefs, peer-reviewed publications for researchers and practitioners, and a webinar for those interested in middle-school makerspaces for diverse learners.

The research will address the paucity of studies to inform practitioners about what pedagogical supports help struggling learners engage in these makerspace experiences. The project will focus on two populations of struggling learners in middle schools, students with learning disabilities, and students at risk for academic failure. The rationale for focusing on metacognition within makerspace activities comes from the literature on students with learning disabilities and other struggling learners that suggests that they have difficulty with metacognitive thinking. Multiple instruments will be used to measure metacognitive processes found to be pertinent within the research process. The project will tentatively focus on persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). The work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.

Foregrounding Agency Versus Structure as Models for Designing Integrated Mathematics and Computational Thinking Curriculum

This project will design and study new learning environments integrating mathematical and computational thinking. The project will examine how to design learning modules that place mathematics concepts. By exploring how different kinds of designs support learning and engagement, the project will establish a set of design principles for supporting mathematical and computational thinking.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1742257
Funding Period: 
Fri, 09/01/2017 to Mon, 08/31/2020
Project Evaluator: 
Full Description: 

The project will design and study new learning environments integrating mathematical and computational thinking. While integrating content has been suggested as a strategy for students' learning, there has been limited investigation about how mathematics and computational thinking should be connected in learning experiences. Computational thinking is an essential skill for STEM careers including concepts such as algorithms and programming, data collection and analysis, using abstractions, and problem solving. These computational thinking concepts and practices can be related to mathematics concepts. This project will examine how to design learning modules that place mathematics concepts. By exploring how different kinds of designs support learning and engagement, the project will establish a set of design principles for supporting mathematical and computational thinking.

Using design-based research as a methodology to support iterative design and research, the project will explore two core tensions that are relevant to the integration of mathematics and computational thinking. Each tension deals with how to balance competing goals, and investigates the influence of foregrounding one goal over another. Specifically, the project will design, test, and begin to apply in schools a set of modules that contrast: 1) foregrounding mathematics vs. computational thinking; and 2) foregrounding agency vs. structure. The model of implementation includes two summers of camp sessions for middle school students, and a year of implementation in classrooms, thus allowing exploration beyond the potential for math and computational thinking to be integrated, and extending into what such integration looks like in the institutional context of schools. The research questions to be investigated include: (1) What are the advantages of modules that teach mathematics through computational thinking (foregrounding mathematics) vs. those that teach computational thinking through mathematics (foregrounding computational thinking)? (2) What are the advantages of modules that teach computational thinking through open exploration (agency) vs. game play (structure)? (3) What kinds of instructional supports do math teachers need or request as they are teaching students at the intersection of computational thinking and mathematics? The project will result in (a) a set of instructional sequences for middle school that propose productive intersections of computational thinking and mathematics, (b) an understanding of how and why these instructional sequences support diverse participation, and (c) conjectures about the support math teachers need to integrate computational thinking in their classrooms. Different sections for students will be created to compare different conditions that will foreground mathematics, computational thinking, structure or agency. Data collected will include measures of student learning, interviews, analysis of student work, and video analysis to examine student engagement and interest.

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