Computer Science

Exploring Early Childhood Teachers' Abilities to Identify Computational Thinking Precursors to Strengthen Computer Science in Classrooms

This project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development to address the lack of research in early computer science education.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2006595
Funding Period: 
Tue, 09/01/2020 to Thu, 08/31/2023
Full Description: 

Strengthening computer science education is a national priority with special attention to increasing the number of teachers who can deliver computer science education in schools. Yet computer science education lacks the evidence to determine how teachers come to think about computational thinking (a problem-solving process) and how it could be integrated within their day-to-day classroom activities. For teachers of pre-kindergarten to 2nd (PK-2) grades, very little research has specifically addressed teacher learning. This oversight challenges the achievement of an equitable, culturally diverse, computationally empowered society. The project team will design a replicable model of PK-2 teacher professional development in San Marcos, Texas, to address the lack of research in early computer science education. The model will emphasize three aspects of teacher learning: a) exploration of and reflection on computer science and computational thinking skills and practices, b) noticing and naming computer science precursor skills and practices in early childhood learning, and c) collaborative design, implementation and assessment of learning activities aligned with standards across content areas. The project will explore PK-2 teachers' content knowledge by investigating their understanding of the design and implementation of culturally relevant computer science learning activities for young children. The project includes a two-week computational making and inquiry institute focused on algorithms and data in the context of citizen science and historical storytelling. The project also includes monthly classroom coaching sessions, and teacher meetups.

The research will include two cohorts of 15 PK-2 teachers recruited from the San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District (SMCISD) in years one and two of the project. The project incorporates a 3-phase professional development program to be run in two cycles for each cohort of teachers. Phase one (summer) includes a 2-week Computational Making and Inquiry Institute, phase two (school year) includes classroom observations and teacher meetups and phase three (late spring) includes an advanced computational thinking institute and a community education conference. Research and data collection on impacts will follow a mixed-methods approach based on a grounded theory design to document teachers learning. The mixed-methods approach will enable researchers to triangulate participants' acquisition of new knowledge and skills with their developing abilities to implement learning activities in practice. Data analysis will be ongoing, interweaving qualitative and quantitative methods. Qualitative data, including field notes, observations, interviews, and artifact assessments, will be analyzed by identifying analytical categories and their relationships. Quantitative data includes pre to post surveys administered at three-time points for each cohort. Inter-item correlations and scale reliabilities will be examined, and a repeated measures ANOVA will be used to assess mean change across time for each of five measures. Project results will be communicated via peer-reviewed journals, education newsletters, annual conferences, family and teacher meetups, and community art and culture events, as well as on social media, blogs, and education databases.

Pandemic Learning Loss in U.S. High Schools: A National Examination of Student Experiences

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2030436
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Sat, 04/30/2022
Full Description: 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools across much of the U.S. have been closed since mid-March of 2020 and many students have been attempting to continue their education away from schools. Student experiences across the country are likely to be highly variable depending on a variety of factors at the individual, home, school, district, and state levels. This project will use two, nationally representative, existing databases of high school students to study their experiences in STEM education during the COVID-19 pandemic. The study intends to ascertain whether students are taking STEM courses in high school, the nature of the changes made to the courses, and their plans for the fall. The researchers will identify the electronic learning platforms in use, and other modifications made to STEM experiences in formal and informal settings. The study is particularly interested in finding patterns of inequities for students in various demographic groups underserved in STEM and who may be most likely to be affected by a hiatus in formal education.

This study will collect data using the AmeriSpeak Teen Panel of approximately 2,000 students aged 13 to 17 and the Infinite Campus Student Information System with a sample of approximately 2.5 million high school students. The data sets allow for relevant comparisons of student experiences prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic and offer unique perspectives with nationally representative samples of U.S. high school students. New data collection will focus on formal and informal STEM learning opportunities, engagement, STEM course taking, the nature and frequency of instruction, interactions with teachers, interest in STEM, and career aspirations. Weighted data will be analyzed using descriptive statistics and within and between district analysis will be conducted to assess group differences. Estimates of between group pandemic learning loss will be provided with attention to demographic factors.

This RAPID award is made by the DRK-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning. The Discovery Research PreK-12 program (DRK-12) seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics by preK-12 students and teachers, through the research and development of new innovations and approaches. 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 the 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.

 

 

 

 

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.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
2010591
Funding Period: 
Fri, 05/15/2020 to Sun, 04/30/2023
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.

CAREER: Promoting Equitable and Inclusive STEM Contexts in High School

This project focuses on fostering equitable and inclusive STEM contexts with attention to documenting and reducing adolescents' experiences of harassment, bias, prejudice and stereotyping. This research will contribute to understanding of the current STEM educational climates in high schools and will help to identify factors that promote resilience in the STEM contexts, documenting how K-12 educators can structure their classrooms and schools to foster success of all students in STEM classes.

Award Number: 
1941992
Funding Period: 
Sat, 02/01/2020 to Fri, 01/31/2025
Full Description: 

This project focuses on fostering equitable and inclusive STEM contexts with attention to documenting and reducing adolescents' experiences of harassment, bias, prejudice and stereotyping. An important barrier to persistence in STEM fields for marginalized groups, including women and ethnic minorities, relates to a culture in many STEM organizations, such as academic institutions, that fosters discrimination, harassment and prejudicial treatment of those from underrepresented groups. This research will contribute to understanding of the current STEM educational climates in high schools and will help to identify factors that promote resilience in the STEM contexts, documenting how K-12 educators can structure their classrooms and schools to foster success of all students in STEM classes. Further, this work will explore how to create schools where students stand-up for each other and support each other so that any student who is interested will feel welcome in STEM classes and programs.

This research aims to examine cultures of discrimination and harassment in STEM contexts with attention to: 1) assessing STEM climates in high schools in order to identify the character of discrimination and harassment, 2) understanding how youth think about these instances of bias and discrimination; 3) identifying pathways to resilience for underrepresented youth pursuing STEM interests, and 4) testing an intervention to promote bystander intervention from those who witness discrimination and harassment in STEM contexts. This research will take an intersectional approach recognizing that those who are marginalized by multiple dimensions of their identity may experience STEM contexts differently than those who are marginalized by one dimension of their identity. Because adolescence is a critical developmental period during which youth are forming their attitudes, orientations and lifelong behaviors, this research will attend to issues of bias and discrimination well before individuals enter college STEM classrooms or the STEM workforce: namely, during high school. Further, this work will examine the creation of equitable STEM climates in both college-preparation classes as well as workforce development STEM programs offered though or in partnership with high schools. This research will provide clear evidence to document the current culture of STEM contexts in high schools, using mixed methods, including surveys, qualitative interviews and longitudinal measurement. Further, the project will involve development and implementation of an intervention, which will provide the first test of whether bystander intervention can be fostered in STEM students and will involve training STEM students in key 21st century skills, such as social-cognitive capacities and interpersonal skills, enabling them to speak up and support peers from marginalized backgrounds when they observe discrimination and harassment.

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.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1942500
Funding Period: 
Sat, 02/01/2020 to Fri, 01/31/2025
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.

CAREER: Spreading Computational Literacy Equitably via Integration of Computing in Preservice Teacher Preparation

This project will study the effect of integrating computing into preservice teacher programs. The project will use design-based research to explore how to connect computing concepts and integration activities to teachers' subject area knowledge and teaching practice, and which computing concepts are most valuable for general computational literacy.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1941642
Funding Period: 
Wed, 07/01/2020 to Mon, 06/30/2025
Full Description: 

Understanding and creating computer-powered solutions to professional and personal problems enables people to be safe, resourceful, and inventive in the technology-infused world. To empower society, K-12 education is rapidly changing to spread computational literacy. To spread literacy equitably, schools must give all students opportunities to understand and design computing solutions. However, school schedules are already packed with required coursework, and most teachers graduated from programs that did not offer computer science courses. To spread computational literacy within the K-12 system, this project will integrate computing into all preservice teacher programs at Georgia State University. This approach enables all teachers, regardless of primary discipline or grade band, to introduce their students to authentic computing solutions within their discipline and use these solutions as powerful tools for teaching disciplinary content and practices. In addition, this approach ensures equity because all preservice teachers will learn to use computing tools through their regular coursework, rather than a self-selected group that chooses to engage in elective courses or professional development on the topic. The project will also require preservice teachers to use computing-integrated activities in their student teaching experiences. This requirement helps teachers gain the confidence to use the activities in their future classrooms and immediately benefits students in the Atlanta area, who are primarily from groups that are underrepresented in computing, including women, people of color and those who are from low-income families.

This project will study the effect of computing integration in preservice teacher programs on computational literacy. Preservice teacher programs, like K-12 school schedules, are loaded with subject area, pedagogy, and licensure requirements. Therefore, research needs to examine the most sustainable methods for integrating computing into these programs. The proposed project will use design-based research to explore 1) how to connect computing concepts and integration activities to teachers' subject area knowledge and teaching practice, and 2) which computing concepts are most valuable for general computational literacy. Because computational literacy is a relatively new literacy, the computing education community still debates which concepts are foundational for all citizens. By studying computing integration in a range of grade bands and subject areas, this project will explore which computing concepts are applicable in a wide range of subjects. These research activities will feed directly into the teaching objective of this project ? to provide computing education and computational literacy to all preservice teachers. This project will prepare about 1500 preservice teachers (more than half of them will be women) across all grades and subject areas who can teach computing integrated activities.

 

A Research-Practice Partnership for Developing Computational Thinking through Linguistically and Culturally Relevant CS Curriculum in Middle School

This project will develop a research-practice partnership to plan and pilot a linguistically and culturally relevant computer science curriculum in middle school with the goal of broadening the participation of emergent bilingual (or English learner) students and Latino/a students in computer science education.

Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1923586
Funding Period: 
Tue, 10/01/2019 to Thu, 09/30/2021
Full Description: 

The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP), together with El Paso Independent School District (EPISD), will develop a research-practice partnership (RPP) to plan and pilot a linguistically and culturally relevant computer science curriculum in middle school with the goal of broadening the participation of emergent bilingual (or English learner) students and Latino/a students in computer science (CS) education. The project will focus on the development of an RPP that can effectively help teachers use bilingual and culturally relevant tools to develop the computational thinking (CT) skills of middle school students in EPISD. By bringing together the promise of culturally relevant CS education and of dual language instruction, this project will seek an innovative solution to the problem of underrepresentation of Latinas/os and emergent bilingual students/English learners in CS education and careers. It does so through a research-practice partnership that ensures responsiveness to the needs of educational practitioners and facilitates the integration of prior NSF-funded research with existing classroom curriculum and practice. The project, together with future scaling work, potentially can serve as a model in at least two existing large networks-the NSF-funded National CAHSI INCLUDES Alliance and the New Tech Network-strengthening efforts in both to broaden participation and engagement of underrepresented students, with particular focus on CS. Through dissemination across the 60 CAHSI institutions, the proposed linguistically and culturally relevant approach could potentially contribute to broadening Hispanic and emergent bilingual participation much beyond the El Paso region. The curriculum developed collaboratively by the RPP would also be disseminated through the national New Tech Network repository of PBL curriculum, accessible to other NTN schools across the country. The model of integrating culturally responsive CT/CS instruction and linguistically responsive dual language instruction has potential to significantly advance efforts to reach, support, and engage more Hispanic youth in CS learning and careers.

The project builds upon research showing that culturally relevant CS education is a promising approach to broadening participation of minoritized students in CS and that dual language bilingual education is a successful approach to improving participation and academic achievement of emergent bilingual (or English learner) students by taking a culturally and linguistically relevant approach to CT/CS instruction for emergent bilingual and Latina/o students. Specifically, the project develops an RPP to plan, co-design, pilot, and refine a curriculum module that is bilingual (Spanish and English) and employs an existing NSF-funded culturally-relevant game-based learning platform, Sol y Agua (Akbar, et al., 2018), that uses locally familiar El Paso area geography and ecology to teach computational thinking. The project will address the following research questions: (1) In what ways and to what extent do teachers demonstrate understanding of computational thinking principles and components and of dual language principles and instructional strategies? (2) How do teachers implement a linguistically and culturally relevant PBL module using Sol y Agua game-based learning platform? And (3) In what ways and to what extent do students demonstrate learning of computational thinking principles and components during and after participating in a linguistically and culturally relevant PBL module using Sol Y Agua? The project will deploy a range of data collection including pre-post testing of teachers' knowledge and implementation of instruction, observation, video recordings of classrooms, and student written assessments and language tracking data from the software tool Sol y Agua. The research team will analyze the data using qualitative data analysis techniques as well as data mining and classification.


 Project Videos

2021 STEM for All Video Showcase

Title: Soy y Agua: Bilingual, Culturally Relevant CS Curriculum

Presenter(s): Katherine Mortimer, Monika Akbar, Pedro Delgado, Sarah Escandon, George Molina, Cynthia Ontiveros, Jacob Ramirez, & Natalia Yanez Castillo


Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Danish)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908632
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

Generalized Embodied Modeling to Support Science through Technology Enhanced Play (Collaborative Research: Enyedy)

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1908791
Funding Period: 
Thu, 08/01/2019 to Sun, 07/31/2022
Full Description: 

The project will develop and research a new Mixed Reality environment (MR), called GEM-STEP, that leverages play and embodiment as resources for integrating computational modeling into the modeling cycle as part of science instruction for elementary students. GEM stands for Generalized Embodied Modeling. Through these embodied, play-as-modeling activities, students will learn the core concepts of science, and the conceptual skills of modeling and systematic measurement. MR environments use new sensing technologies to help transform young children's physical actions during pretend play into a set of symbolic representations and parameters in a science simulation. As students physically move around the classroom, the computer will track their motion and interactions with selected objects and translate their physical activity into a shared display. For example, students pretend they are water particles and work together to model different states of matter. The children see their activity projected onto a computer simulation where a model of a water particle is displayed over the video of themselves. As students collectively reflect upon the nature of a water molecule, they refine their understanding of water as ice, a liquid or a gas. The proposed innovation allows the students to program and revise their own mixed reality simulations as part of their modeling cycle. Embodied and computational modeling will help students to reflect on their models in a unique way that will make their models more computationally accurate and enhance their understanding of the underlying concepts.

The project will research how using the body as a component of the modeling cycle differs from and interacts with the articulation of a scientific model through more structured computational means. The project will investigate the benefits of combining embodiment with computational elements in GEM:STEP by studying the range of concepts that students can learn in this manner. Lessons will be developed to address different disciplinary core ideas, such as states of matter, pollination as a complex system, or decomposition, as well as cross-cutting concepts of systems thinking, and energy/matter flow, all of which link directly to upper elementary science curriculum. Project research will gather data to understand what kinds of models students develop, what learning processes are supported using GEM:STEP, and what learning results. The data will include: (1) documenting and analyzing what students modeled and how accurate the models are; (2) recording student activity using audio and voice to code their activity to document learning processes and to look at how different forms of modeling interact with one another to promote learning; and (3) pre-post content measures to assess learning. All of the software that is developed for GEM:STEP will be made available as Open Source projects, allowing other researchers to build upon and extend this work. The results of the research will be disseminated in academic conferences and peer reviewed journals. The motion tracking software is already available on Github, a popular open-source repository. Once developed, the aim is to implement GEM:STEP in a wide range of classroom contexts, supported by a user-friendly interface, teacher guides, and professional development.

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.

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