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CT with ELs Profile

Science and Integrated Language Plus Computational Thinking and Modeling with English Learners


As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM + Computing Partnerships program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking (CT) and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school. This project is a research and development effort aimed at developing a yearlong science curriculum aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) with a focus on English learners (ELs) that integrates computational modeling. The project will integrate computational models in online environments using StarLogo Nova to allow all students, including ELs, to model causal relationships that explain the studied phenomena. Plans are to enhance and integrate StarLogo Nova, a block-based programming environment with an agent-based simulation engine for modeling complex systems. Using the enhanced StarLogo Nova, the project will embed CT throughout the yearlong NGSS-aligned curriculum for students and teachers.
The project will take place in Elizabeth Public Schools in Elizabeth, New Jersey (NJ), and Metro Nashville Public Schools in Nashville, Tennessee (TN). These are two distinct sites with diverse student populations. NJ adopted the NGSS and is currently working out implementation plans, whereas TN represents states that have not adopted the NGSS. The study has two main goals: (1) to investigate feasibility of implementation of the curriculum model in classrooms; and (2) to investigate the extent to which the curriculum promotes student learning outcomes. To achieve the first goal in terms of feasibility of classroom implementation, the project will examine the following research questions: (1) To what extent and how do elementary school teachers support students' engagement in computational modeling?; (2) To what extent and how do students engage in computational modeling?; and (3) What design features of the curriculum and software support students' engagement in computational modeling? Data gathering strategies will include focus groups, field notes to document teachers' feedback, and classroom observations, including videotaping. To achieve the second goal in terms of student learning outcomes, the project will examine the following questions: (4) How do students' understanding of the causal relationships underlying phenomena evolve as they engage in physical, diagrammatic, and computational modeling over the year?; and (5) How do students' understanding of key aspects of CT (e.g., abstraction, pattern generalization, representational competence, modularization, algorithmic notions of flow of control, and conditional logic) evolve as they engage in computational modeling over the full-year curriculum? To measure student learning outcomes, the project will use student assessments of science and CT. A principal outcome of this project will be a field-tested and research-informed model that integrates (a) science learning, (b) language learning, and (c) infusion of critical CT constructs and ideas. An external evaluation will include formative and summative components to provide an independent perspective on the project's work, contributions, and quality of outcomes in terms of design critique, research audit, products review, and collaboration assessment.