skip to main content

This content will become publicly available on May 1, 2023

Title: From Students to Cofacilitators: Latinx Students’ Experiences in Mathematics and Computer Programming
Background/Context: Computer programming is rarely accessible to K–12 students, especially for those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Middle school age is a transitioning time when adolescents are more likely to make long-term decisions regarding their academic choices and interests. Having access to productive and positive knowledge and experiences in computer programming can grant them opportunities to realize their abilities and potential in this field. Purpose/Focus of Study: This study focuses on the exploration of the kind of relationship that bilingual Latinx students developed with themselves and computer programming and mathematics (CPM) practices through their participation in a CPM after-school program, first as students and then as cofacilitators teaching CPM practices to other middle school peers. Setting: An after-school program, Advancing Out-of-School Learning in Mathematics and Engineering (AOLME), was held at two middle schools located in rural and urban areas in the Southwest. It was designed to support an inclusive cultural environment that nurtured students’ opportunities to learn CPM practices through the inclusion of languages (Spanish and English), tasks, and participants congruent to students in the program. Students learned how to represent, design, and program digital images and videos using a sequence of 2D arrays of hexadecimal numbers with Python more » on a Raspberry Pi computer. The six bilingual cofacilitators attended Levels 1 and 2 as students and were offered the opportunity to participate as cofacilitators in the next implementation of Level 1. Research Design: This longitudinal case study focused on analyzing the experiences and shifts (if any) of students who participated as cofacilitators in AOLME. Their narratives were analyzed collectively, and our analysis describes the experiences of the cofacilitators as a single case study (with embedded units) of what it means to be a bilingual cofacilitator in AOLME. Data included individual exit interviews of the six cofacilitators and their focus groups (30–45 minutes each), an adapted 20-item CPM attitude 5-point Likert scale, and self-report from each of them. Results from attitude scales revealed cofacilitators’ greater initial and posterior connections to CPM practices. The self-reports on CPM included two number lines (0–10) for before and after AOLME for students to self-assess their liking and knowledge of CPM. The numbers were used as interview prompts to converse with students about experiences. The interview data were analyzed qualitatively and coded through a contrast-comparative process regarding students’ description of themselves, their experiences in the program, and their perception of and relationship toward CPM practices. Findings: Findings indicated that students had continued/increased motivation and confidence in CPM as they engaged in a journey as cofacilitators, described through two thematic categories: (a) shifting views by personally connecting to CPM, and (b) affirming CPM practices through teaching. The shift in connecting to CPM practices evolved as students argued that they found a new way of learning mathematics, in that they used mathematics as a tool to create videos and images that they programmed by using Python while making sense of the process bilingually (Spanish and English). This mathematics was viewed by students as high level, which in turned helped students gain self-confidence in CPM practices. Additionally, students affirmed their knowledge and confidence in CPM practices by teaching them to others, a process in which they had to mediate beyond the understanding of CPM practices. They came up with new ways of explaining CPM practices bilingually to their peers. In this new role, cofacilitators considered the topic and language, and promoted a communal support among the peers they worked with. Conclusions/Recommendations: Bilingual middle school students can not only program, but also teach bilingually and embrace new roles with nurturing support. Schools can promote new student roles, which can yield new goals and identities. There is a great need to redesign the school mathematics curriculum as a discipline that teenagers can use and connect with by creating and finding things they care about. In this way, school mathematics can support a closer “fit” with students’ identification with the world of mathematics. Cofacilitators learned more about CPM practices by teaching them, extending beyond what was given to them, and constructing new goals that were in line with a sophisticated knowledge and shifts in the practice. Assigned responsibility in a new role can strengthen students’ self-image, agency, and ways of relating to mathematics. « less
Authors:
; ; ;
Award ID(s):
1949230 1613637
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10339033
Journal Name:
Teachers College Record: The Voice of Scholarship in Education
Volume:
124
Issue:
5
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
146 to 165
ISSN:
0161-4681
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Background/Context: After-school programs that focus on integrating computer programming and mathematics in authentic environments are seldomly accessible to students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, particularly bilingual Latina students in rural contexts. Providing a context that broadens Latina students’ participation in mathematics and computer programming requires educators to carefully examine how verbal and nonverbal language is used to interact and to position students as they learn new concepts in middle school. This is also an important stage for adolescents because they are likely to make decisions about their future careers in STEM. Having access to discourse and teaching practices thatmore »invite students to participate in mathematics and computer programming affords them opportunities to engage with these fields. Purpose/Focus of Study: This case study analyzes how small-group interactions mediated the positionings of Cindy, a bilingual Latina, as she learned binary numbers in an after-school program that integrated computer programming and mathematics (CPM). Setting: The Advancing Out-of-School Learning in Mathematics and Engineering (AOLME) program was held in a rural bilingual (Spanish and English) middle school in the Southwest. The after-school program was designed to provide experiences for primarily Latinx students to learn how to integrate mathematics with computer programming using Raspberry Pi and Python as a platform. Our case study explores how Cindy was positioned as she interacted with two undergraduate engineering students who served as facilitators while learning binary numbers with a group of three middle school students. Research Design: This single intrinsic case focused on exploring how small-group interactions among four students mediated Cindy’s positionings as she learned binary numbers through her participation in AOLME. Data sources included twelve 90-minute video sessions and Cindy’s journal and curriculum binder. Video logs were created, and transcripts were coded to describe verbal and nonverbal interactions among the facilitators and Cindy. Analysis of select episodes was conducted using systemic functional linguistics (SFL), specifically language modality, to identify how positioning took place. These episodes and positioning analysis describe how Cindy, with others, navigated the process of learning binary numbers under the stereotype that female students are not as good at mathematics as male students. Findings: From our analysis, three themes that emerged from the data portray Cindy’s experiences learning binary numbers. The major themes are: (1) Cindy’s struggle to reveal her understanding of binary numbers in a competitive context, (2) Cindy’s use of “fake it until you make it” to hide her cognitive dissonance, and (3) the use of Spanish and peers’ support to resolve Cindy’s understanding of binary numbers. The positioning patterns observed help us learn how, when Cindy’s bilingualism was viewed and promoted as an asset, this social context worked as a generative axis that addressed the challenges of learning binary numbers. The contrasting episodes highlight the facilitators’ productive teaching strategies and relations that nurtured Cindy’s social and intellectual participation in CPM. Conclusions/Recommendations: Cindy’s case demonstrates how the facilitator’s teaching, and participants’ interactions and discourse practices contributed to her qualitatively different positionings while she learned binary numbers, and how she persevered in this process. Analysis of communication acts supported our understanding of how Cindy’s positionings underpinned the discourse; how the facilitators’ and students’ discourse formed, shaped, or shifted Cindy’s positioning; and how discourse was larger than gender storylines that went beyond classroom interactions. Cindy’s case reveals the danger of placing students in “struggle” instead of a “productive struggle.” The findings illustrated that when Cindy was placed in struggle when confronting responding moves by the facilitator, her “safe” reaction was hiding and avoiding. In contrast, we also learned about the importance of empathetic, nurturing supporting responses that encourage students’ productive struggle to do better. We invite instructors to notice students’ hiding or avoiding and consider Cindy’s case. Furthermore, we recommend that teachers notice their choice of language because this is important in terms of positioning students. We also highlight Cindy’s agency as she chose to take up her friend’s suggestion to “fake it” rather than give up.« less
  2. K-12 teachers serve a critical role in their students’ development of interest in engineering, especially as engineering content is emphasized in curriculum standards. However, teachers may not be comfortable teaching engineering in their classrooms as it can require a different set of skills from which they are trained. Professional development activities focused on engineering content can help teachers feel more comfortable teaching the subject in their classrooms and can increase their knowledge of engineering and thus their engineering teaching self-efficacy. There are many different types of professional development activities teachers might experience, each one with a set of established bestmore »practices. VT PEERS (Virginia Tech Partnering with Educators and Engineers in Rural Communities) is a program designed to provide recurrent hands-on engineering activities to middle school students in or near rural Appalachia. The project partners middle school teachers, university affiliates, and local industry partners throughout the state region to develop and implement engineering activities that align with state defined standards of learning (SOLs). Throughout this partnership, teachers co-facilitate engineering activities in their classrooms throughout the year with the other partners, and teachers have the opportunity to participate in a two-day collaborative workshop every year. VT PEERS held a workshop during the summer of 2019, after the second year of the partnership, to discuss the successes and challenges experienced throughout the program. Three focus groups, one for each grade level involved (grades 6-8), were held during the summit for teachers and industry partners to discuss their experiences. None of the teachers involved in the partnership have formal training in engineering. The transcripts of these focus groups were the focus of the exploratory qualitative data analyses to answer the following research question: How do middle-school teachers develop teaching engineering self-efficacy through professional development activities? Deductive coding of the focus group transcripts was completed using the four sources of self-efficacy: mastery experience, vicarious experience, verbal persuasion and physiological states. The analysis revealed that vicarious experiences can be particularly valuable to increasing teachers’ teaching engineering self-efficacy. For example, teachers valued the ability to play the role of a student in an engineering lesson and being able to share ideas about teaching engineering lessons with other teachers. This information can be useful to develop engineering-focused professional development activities for teachers. Additionally, as teachers gather information from their teaching engineering vicarious experiences, they can inform their own teaching practices and practice reflective teaching as they teach lessons.« less
  3. Teacher self-efficacy (SE) has been observed to be an 'important construct for Computer Science (CS) teachers' professional development because it can predict both teaching behaviors as well as student outcomes" [1]. The purpose of the present study was to investigate teacher CS SE during a two-year federally funded professional development (PD) and curriculum development project for middle school teachers incorporating game-design and the Unity development platform. The research question investigated is: How does teacher self-efficacy for teaching computer science via game design with the Unity game development platform change during a year-long PD program? Investigations of teacher SE for teachingmore »CS have resulted in some surprising results. For example, it has been reported that - There were no differences in self-efficacy based on teachers' overall level of experience, despite previous findings that teacher self-efficacy is related to amount of experience" and "no differences in self-efficacy related to the teachers' own level of experience with CS" [2], thus further study of CS teacher SE is warranted. Participants in this study were six middle school teachers from four middle schools in the southeastern United States. They participated in a year-long PD program learning the Unity game development platform, elements of game design, and foundations of learner motivation. Guided reflective journaling was used to track the teachers' SE during the first year of the project. Teachers completed journal prompts at four intervals. Prompts consisted of questions like "How do you currently feel about your ability to facilitate student learning with Unity?" and "Are you confident that you can implement the materials the way the project team has planned for them to be implemented?" Prior to beginning the project participants expressed confidence in being able to facilitate student learning after participating in the planned professional development, but there was some uneasiness about learning and using Unity. From a SE perspective their responses make sense, as all of the participants are experienced teachers and should have confidence in their general ability to teach. However, since Unity is a new programming environment for all of the teachers, they did not have the prior experience necessary to have a high degree of confidence that they could successfully use it with their students.« less
  4. To meet the rising demand for computer science (CS) courses, K-12 educators need to be prepared to teach introductory concepts and skills in courses such as Computer Science Principles (CSP), which takes a breadth-first approach to CS and includes topics beyond programming such as data, impacts of computing, and networks. Educators are now also being asked to teach more advanced concepts in courses such as the College Board's Advanced Placement Computer Science A (CSA) course, which focuses on advanced programming using Java and includes topics such as objects, inheritance, arrays, and recursion. Traditional CSA curricula have not used content ormore »pedagogy designed to engage a broad range of learners and support their success. Unlike CSP, which is attracting more underrepresented students to computing as it was designed, CSA continues to enroll mostly male, white, and Asian students [College Board 2019, Ericson 2020, Sax 2020]. In order to expand CS education opportunities, it is crucial that students have an engaging experience in CSA similar to CSP. Well-designed differentiated professional development (PD) that focuses on content and pedagogy is necessary to meet individual teacher needs, to successfully build teacher skills and confidence to teach CSA, and to improve engagement with students [Darling-Hammond 2017]. It is critical that as more CS opportunities and courses are developed, teachers remain engaged with their own learning in order to build their content knowledge and refine their teaching practice [CSTA 2020]. CSAwesome, developed and piloted in 2019, offers a College Board endorsed AP CSA curriculum and PD focused on supporting the transition of teachers and students from CSP to CSA. This poster presents preliminary findings aimed at exploring the supports and challenges new-to-CSA high school level educators face when transitioning from teaching an introductory, breadth-first course such as CSP to teaching the more challenging, programming-focused CSA course. Five teachers who completed the online CSAwesome summer 2020 PD completed interviews in spring 2021. The project employed an inductive coding scheme to analyze interview transcriptions and qualitative notes from teachers about their experiences learning, teaching, and implementing CSP and CSA curricula. Initial findings suggest that teachers’ experience in the CSAwesome PD may improve their confidence in teaching CSA, ability to effectively use inclusive teaching practices, ability to empathize with their students, problem-solving skills, and motivation to persist when faced with challenges and difficulties. Teachers noted how the CSAwesome PD provided them with a student perspective and increased feelings of empathy. Participants spoke about the implications of the COVID-19 pandemic on their own learning, student learning, and teaching style. Teachers enter the PD with many different backgrounds, CS experience levels, and strengths, however, new-to-CSA teachers require further PD on content and pedagogy to transition between CSP and CSA. Initial results suggest that the CSAwesome PD may have an impact on long-term teacher development as new-to-CSA teachers who participated indicated a positive impact on their teaching practices, ideologies, and pedagogies.« less
  5. Facility with foundational practices in computer science (CS) is increasingly recognized as critical for the 21st century workforce. Developing this capacity and broadening participation in CS disciplines will require learning experiences that can engage a larger and more diverse student population (Margolis et al., 2008). One promising approach involves including CS concepts and practices in required subjects like science. Yet, research on the scalability of educational innovations consistently demonstrates that their successful uptake in formal classrooms depends on teachers’ perceived alignment of the innovations with their goals and expectations for student learning, as well as with the specific needs ofmore »their school context and culture (Blumenfeld et al., 2000; Penuel et al., 2007; Bernstein et al., 2016). Research is nascent, however, about how exactly to achieve this alignment and thereby position integrated instructional models for uptake at scale. To contribute to this understanding, we are developing and studying two units for core middle school science classrooms, known as Coding Science Internships. The units are designed to support broader participation in CS, with a particular emphasis on females, by expanding students’ perception of the nature and value of coding. CS and science learning are integrated through a simulated internship model, in which students, as interns, apply science knowledge and use computer programming as a tool to address real-world problems. In one unit, students gain first-hand experience with sequences, loops, and conditionals as they program and debug an interactive scientific model of a coral reef ecosystem under threat. The second unit engages students in learning concepts related to data analysis and visualization, abstraction, and modularity as they code data visualizations using real EPA air quality data. A core goal for both units is to provide students experience with some of the increasingly prevalent ways that computer science is integrated into the work of scientists.« less