skip to main content

Title: Integrating Computer Science in Science Classrooms: Learning Computational Thinking and Expanding Perceptions of Computer Science
We will present emerging findings from an ongoing study of instruction at the intersection of science and computer science for middle school science classrooms. This paper focuses on student knowledge and dispositional outcomes in relation to a 2 week/10-lesson learning sequence. Instruction aims to broaden participation in STEM pathways through a virtual simulated internship in which students inhabit the role of interns working to develop a restoration plan to improve the health of coral reef populations. Through this collaborative work, students construct understanding of biotic and abiotic interactions within the reef and develop a computational model of the ecosystem. Analysis of pre/post surveys for n=381 students revealed that students who participated in the 2 week/10 lesson integrated computational thinking in science learning sequence demonstrated significant learning gains on an external measure of CT (0.522***; effect size=0.32). Drawing on scales from the Activation Lab suite of measures, pre/post surveys revealed increased competency beliefs about computer programming (mean difference =1.13***; effect size=1.01), and increased value assigned to STEM (0.78***; effect size=0.945). We also discuss the design of the instructional sequence and the theoretical framework for its development.
Authors:
;
Award ID(s):
1657002
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10215760
Journal Name:
NARST 2021 ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This work in progress is motivated by a self-study conducted at Texas State University. The study revealed that the average second year science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) student retention rate is 56% vs. 67% for all majors, and that 16% of STEM majors are female while 57% of all undergraduate students are female. Using these statistics, the authors identified the need to offer motivating experiences to freshman in STEM while creating a sense of community among other STEM students. This paper reports on the impact of two interventions designed by the authors and aligned with this need. The interventions are: (1) a one-day multi- disciplinary summer orientation (summer15) to give participants the opportunity to undertake projects that demonstrate the relevance of spatial and computational thinking skills and (2) a subsequent six-week spatial visualization skills training (fall 2015) for students in need to refine these skills. The interventions have spatial skills as a common topic and introduce participants to career applications through laboratory tours and talks. Swail et al.1 mentions that the three elements to address in order to best support students’ persistence and achievement are cognitive, social, and institutional factors. The interventions address all elements to some extent andmore »are part of an NSF IUSE grant (2015-2018) to improve STEM retention. The summer 2015 orientation was attended by 17 freshmen level students in Physics, Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Computer Science. The orientation was in addition to “Bobcat Preview”, a separate mandatory one-week length freshman orientation that includes academic advising and educational and spirit sessions to acclimate students to the campus. The effectiveness of the orientation was assessed through exit surveys administered to participants. Current results are encouraging; 100% of the participants answered that the orientation created a space to learn about science and engineering, facilitated them to make friends and encouraged peer interaction. Eighty percent indicated that the orientation helped them to build confidence in their majors. Exit survey findings were positively linked to a former exit survey from an orientation given to a group of 18 talented and low-income students in 2013. The training on refining spatial visualization skills connects to the summer orientation by its goals. It offers freshman students in need to refine spatial skills a further way to increase motivation to STEM and create community among other students. It is also an effective approach to support students’ persistence and achievement. Bairaktarova et al.2 mention that spatial skills ability is gradually becoming a standard assessment of an individual’s likelihood to succeed as an engineer. Metz et al.3 report that well-developed spatial skills have been shown to lead to success in Engineering and Technology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Computer Aided Design and Mathematics. The effectiveness of the fall 2015 training was assessed through comparison between pre and post tests results and exit surveys administered to participants. All participants improved their pre-training scores and average improvement in students’ scores was 18.334%.« less
  2. This work in progress is motivated by a self-study conducted at Texas State University. The study revealed that the average second year science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) student retention rate is 56% vs. 67% for all majors, and that 16% of STEM majors are female while 57% of all undergraduate students are female. Using these statistics, the authors identified the need to offer motivating experiences to freshman in STEM while creating a sense of community among other STEM students. This paper reports on the impact of two interventions designed by the authors and aligned with this need. The interventions are: (1) a one-day multi- disciplinary summer orientation (summer15) to give participants the opportunity to undertake projects that demonstrate the relevance of spatial and computational thinking skills and (2) a subsequent six-week spatial visualization skills training (fall 2015) for students in need to refine these skills. The interventions have spatial skills as a common topic and introduce participants to career applications through laboratory tours and talks. Swail et al.[1] mentions that the three elements to address in order to best support students’ persistence and achievement are cognitive, social, and institutional factors. The interventions address all elements to some extent andmore »are part of an NSF IUSE grant (2015-2018) to improve STEM retention. The summer 2015 orientation was attended by 17 freshmen level students in Physics, Engineering, Engineering Technology, and Computer Science. The orientation was in addition to “Bobcat Preview”, a separate mandatory one-week length freshman orientation that includes academic advising and educational and spirit sessions to acclimate students to the campus. The effectiveness of the orientation was assessed through exit surveys administered to participants. Current results are encouraging; 100% of the participants answered that the orientation created a space to learn about science and engineering, facilitated them to make friends and encouraged peer interaction. Eighty percent indicated that the orientation helped them to build confidence in their majors. Exit survey findings were positively linked to a former exit survey from an orientation given to a group of 18 talented and low-income students in 2013. The training on refining spatial visualization skills connects to the summer orientation by its goals. It offers freshman students in need to refine spatial skills a further way to increase motivation to STEM and create community among other students. It is also an effective approach to support students’ persistence and achievement. Bairaktarova et al.[2] mention that spatial skills ability is gradually becoming a standard assessment of an individual’s likelihood to succeed as an engineer. Metz et al.[3] report that well-developed spatial skills have been shown to lead to success in Engineering and Technology, Computer Science, Chemistry, Computer Aided Design and Mathematics. The effectiveness of the fall 2015 training was assessed through comparison between pre and post tests results and exit surveys administered to participants. All participants improved their pre-training scores and average improvement in students’ scores was 18.334%.« less
  3. Computational tools, and the computational thinking (CT) involved in their use, are pervasive in science, supporting and often transforming scientific understanding. Yet, longstanding disparities in access to learning opportunities means that CT’s growing role risks deepening persistent inequities in STEM [2]. To address this problem, our team developed and studied two 10-lesson instructional units for middle school science classrooms, each designed to challenge persistent barriers to equitable participation in STEM. The units aim to position coding as a tool for doing science, and ultimately, encourage a broader range of students, and females in particular, to identify as programmers. Students who participated (n=391) in a recent study of the units demonstrated statistically significant learning gains, as measured on an external assessment of CT. Learning gains were particularly pronounced for female students. Findings suggest that students can develop CT through instruction that foregrounds science, and in ways that lead to more equitable outcomes.
  4. Abstract: Developing student interest is critical to supporting student learning in computer science. Research indicates that student interest is a key predictor of persistence and achievement. While there is a growing body of work on developing computing identities for diverse students, little research focuses on early exposure to develop multilingual students’ interest in computing. These students represent one of the fastest growing populations in the US, yet they are dramatically underrepresented in computer science education. This study examines identity development of upper elementary multilingual students as they engage in a year-long computational thinking curriculum, and follows their engagement across multiple settings (i.e., school, club, home, community). Findings from pre- and -post surveys of identity showed significant differences favoring students’ experiences with computer science, their perceptions of computer science, their perceptions of themselves as computer scientists, and their family support for computer science. Findings from follow-up interviews and prior research suggest that tailored instruction provides opportunities for connections to out-of-school learning environments with friends and family that may shift students’ perceptions of their abilities to pursue computer science and persist when encountering challenges.
  5. Need/Motivation (e.g., goals, gaps in knowledge) The ESTEEM implemented a STEM building capacity project through students’ early access to a sustainable and innovative STEM Stepping Stones, called Micro-Internships (MI). The goal is to reap key benefits of a full-length internship and undergraduate research experiences in an abbreviated format, including access, success, degree completion, transfer, and recruiting and retaining more Latinx and underrepresented students into the STEM workforce. The MIs are designed with the goals to provide opportunities for students at a community college and HSI, with authentic STEM research and applied learning experiences (ALE), support for appropriate STEM pathway/career, preparation and confidence to succeed in STEM and engage in summer long REUs, and with improved outcomes. The MI projects are accessible early to more students and build momentum to better overcome critical obstacles to success. The MIs are shorter, flexibly scheduled throughout the year, easily accessible, and participation in multiple MI is encouraged. ESTEEM also establishes a sustainable and collaborative model, working with partners from BSCS Science Education, for MI’s mentor, training, compliance, and building capacity, with shared values and practices to maximize the improvement of student outcomes. New Knowledge (e.g., hypothesis, research questions) Research indicates that REU/internship experiences canmore »be particularly powerful for students from Latinx and underrepresented groups in STEM. However, those experiences are difficult to access for many HSI-community college students (85% of our students hold off-campus jobs), and lack of confidence is a barrier for a majority of our students. The gap between those who can and those who cannot is the “internship access gap.” This project is at a central California Community College (CCC) and HSI, the only affordable post-secondary option in a region serving a historically underrepresented population in STEM, including 75% Hispanic, and 87% have not completed college. MI is designed to reduce inequalities inherent in the internship paradigm by providing access to professional and research skills for those underserved students. The MI has been designed to reduce barriers by offering: shorter duration (25 contact hours); flexible timing (one week to once a week over many weeks); open access/large group; and proximal location (on-campus). MI mentors participate in week-long summer workshops and ongoing monthly community of practice with the goal of co-constructing a shared vision, engaging in conversations about pedagogy and learning, and sustaining the MI program going forward. Approach (e.g., objectives/specific aims, research methodologies, and analysis) Research Question and Methodology: We want to know: How does participation in a micro-internship affect students’ interest and confidence to pursue STEM? We used a mixed-methods design triangulating quantitative Likert-style survey data with interpretive coding of open-responses to reveal themes in students’ motivations, attitudes toward STEM, and confidence. Participants: The study sampled students enrolled either part-time or full-time at the community college. Although each MI was classified within STEM, they were open to any interested student in any major. Demographically, participants self-identified as 70% Hispanic/Latinx, 13% Mixed-Race, and 42 female. Instrument: Student surveys were developed from two previously validated instruments that examine the impact of the MI intervention on student interest in STEM careers and pursuing internships/REUs. Also, the pre- and post (every e months to assess longitudinal outcomes) -surveys included relevant open response prompts. The surveys collected students’ demographics; interest, confidence, and motivation in pursuing a career in STEM; perceived obstacles; and past experiences with internships and MIs. 171 students responded to the pre-survey at the time of submission. Outcomes (e.g., preliminary findings, accomplishments to date) Because we just finished year 1, we lack at this time longitudinal data to reveal if student confidence is maintained over time and whether or not students are more likely to (i) enroll in more internships, (ii) transfer to a four-year university, or (iii) shorten the time it takes for degree attainment. For short term outcomes, students significantly Increased their confidence to continue pursuing opportunities to develop within the STEM pipeline, including full-length internships, completing STEM degrees, and applying for jobs in STEM. For example, using a 2-tailed t-test we compared means before and after the MI experience. 15 out of 16 questions that showed improvement in scores were related to student confidence to pursue STEM or perceived enjoyment of a STEM career. Finding from the free-response questions, showed that the majority of students reported enrolling in the MI to gain knowledge and experience. After the MI, 66% of students reported having gained valuable knowledge and experience, and 35% of students spoke about gaining confidence and/or momentum to pursue STEM as a career. Broader Impacts (e.g., the participation of underrepresented minorities in STEM; development of a diverse STEM workforce, enhanced infrastructure for research and education) The ESTEEM project has the potential for a transformational impact on STEM undergraduate education’s access and success for underrepresented and Latinx community college students, as well as for STEM capacity building at Hartnell College, a CCC and HSI, for students, faculty, professionals, and processes that foster research in STEM and education. Through sharing and transfer abilities of the ESTEEM model to similar institutions, the project has the potential to change the way students are served at an early and critical stage of their higher education experience at CCC, where one in every five community college student in the nation attends a CCC, over 67% of CCC students identify themselves with ethnic backgrounds that are not White, and 40 to 50% of University of California and California State University graduates in STEM started at a CCC, thus making it a key leverage point for recruiting and retaining a more diverse STEM workforce.« less