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Principal Investigators
Chandra Orrill, UMass Dartmouth (PI)
Shakhnoza Kayumova, UMass Dartmouth (Co-PI)
Ramprasad Balasubramanium, UMass Dartmouth (Co-PI)

National Science Foundation STEM+C Program
Award: DRL-1934111
$2.1 million

This 4-year STEM+C grant aims to develop a professional development model for bringing computation thinking into the formal mathematics and science curriculum for grades 3-5 in one district. To achieve this goal, we will implement a three-year professional learning model that includes summer workshops and ongoing support throughout the year. In the summers, participating teachers will learn about design thinking, project-based learning, and computational thinking in addition to being introduced to new technologies. During the year, in-class implementation support will be offered and monthly video club sessions will be conducted to sensitize teachers to noticing in their classrooms. Throughout the process, teachers will co-design and implement projects-based lessons and design-thinking projects that they have designed to integrate computational thinking into math and science.

The research will focus on the professional learning model in which teachers will be creating project-based units that incorporate computational thinking into math and science. We have chosen to partner with schools in one urban district to engage in design-based implementation research in which we work closely with a group of teachers to examine and refine our model of professional learning. Given the research at the elementary level, and studies in language, culture and linguistics, we argue that it is important to engage children in computational thinking and disciplinary content and practices early in their academics through project-based and design-thinking projects and activities. Until now, most computational thinking projects have been limited to informal learning environments because of constraints teachers face. By working with teachers as co-developers, we raise the relevance and “fit” of the units for the schools.

The outcomes of this research effort will include: teacher-developed project-based or design thinking lessons; a longitudinal study of teacher professional development for promoting computational thinking in the STEM disciplines in elementary grades; a refined and scalable model for professional development; and a set of video teaching cases that provide teachers with models of implementation of such units in their own classrooms that highlight ways to recognize a wide variety of student thinking strategies, particularly when student thinking is not verbal. We will also develop an annual conference at which teachers from the district can learn from each other and can share their own experiences.

Intellectual Merit
This project takes seriously that computational thinking is a 21st century skill that all learners should develop. Because mathematics and science can benefit from the kinds of reasoning developed in computational thinking, they are a natural fit for integrating it into the curriculum. Our approach engages the teachers as co-learners to explore how CT can be incorporated into the STEM content they already teach. In short, this project takes a first step in creating opportunities for students and teachers to engage in the kinds of reasoning that typify the anticipated needs of the workplace as the century progresses.

Broader Impact
We are interested in supporting access to computational thinking in the context of engaging with mathematics and science content for all students. Too often, computational thinking activities are relegated to afternoon clubs or summer workshops that limit student access. And, too often, only one or two teachers in a school see themselves as the “computer” teacher. This project moves away from these norms by building a scalable professional development model that can be used in subsequent projects. The researchers will disseminate findings from the research as well as the curriculum units through a wide variety of venues including journals and academic conferences, statewide teacher conferences, and through a presence on the Kaput Center for Research and Innovation in STEM Education’s website.

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