Suters, L. (2021). Elementary preservice teacher coursework design for developing science and mathematics computational thinking practices. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 21(2). https://citejournal.org/volume-21/issue-2-21/science/elementary-preservice-teacher-coursework-design-for-developing-science-and-mathematics-computational-thinking-practices

Elementary Preservice Teacher Coursework Design for Developing Science and Mathematics Computational Thinking Practices

by Leslie Suters, Tennessee Technological University

Abstract

This paper describes disciplinary computational thinking (CT) interventions within mathematics and science methods courses, an instructional technology course, and a practicum placement for elementary preservice teachers (PSTs). The population included two cohorts of elementary PSTs from fall 2018 (n = 9) and fall 2019 (n = 12). Curricular interventions included opportunities for PSTs to practice using, teaching, and reflecting upon disciplinary CT activities with educational robotics, 3D printing, and maker-centered tasks. Results indicate statistically significant increases in self-perceptions of technology, pedagogy, and content knowledge (TPACK), Personal Science Teaching Efficacy as measured by the STEBI instrument, and CT-efficacy for teaching as a result of participation in coursework. The PSTs were also able to describe specific ways they could use CT tools and practices for teaching elementary content and logically apply aspects of TPACK, Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition, and the CT in Mathematics and Science Taxonomy practices to their instruction (Weintrop et al., 2016). Recommendations include a progression of activities within courses that can serve as a model for other teacher educators in preparing PSTs to use disciplinary CT.

The need is growing to prepare students to enter the workforce with skills in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and, in particular, computer science (CS) (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018; Computer Science Teachers Association [CSTA], 2016). Computer and information technology occupations are expected to grow 12% from 2018 to 2028, which is at a much faster rate than the average for all occupations. Society and work environments are changing rapidly due to the innovations of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, characterized by the use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotechnology, the internet of things, and autonomous vehicles, together with how humans interact with these technologies.

The use of technologies such as voice-activated assistants, facial ID recognition, and digital health-care sensors are “blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres” (Schwab & Davis, 2018). Marr (2019) suggested that schools had several challenges to prepare students for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, including improving STEM education, developing the human potential to partner with machines rather than compete with them, adapting to lifelong learning models, facilitating student inquiry, and encouraging collaboration and creativity with the use of makerspaces. 

One approach to preparing citizens for much-needed critical thinking and problem-solving skills is to teach computational thinking (CT) skills within K-12 schools (Hunsaker, 2018). Yadav et al. (2016) stated that many constraints exist to teaching CT within the context of a standalone CS class within K-12 schools. Preparing new teachers to integrate CT within specific disciplines is, therefore, important.

Embedding CT practices within mathematics and science courses benefits students both academically and economically by providing opportunities to prepare students better as creative and critical thinkers and to meet the future needs of the job market (Grover & Pea, 2013; Hunsaker, 2018). Incorporating disciplinary specific CT instruction, such as solving community problems or completing STEM-related projects, is likely to help students see the real-world applications of CT (Ching et al., 2018).

Despite the benefits of maker-centered instruction, which includes the use of CT practices, there are a limited number of teacher preparation programs in the United States that provide opportunities to develop these skills (Mason & Rich, 2019; Rodriguez et al., 2019; Yadav et al., 2017). Within this context the current project was designed to address the need to prepare STEM-literate preservice teachers (PSTs) who possess CT skills. Ultimately, the goal was to enable these new teachers to prepare all of their students at an early age, regardless of ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic status, for a workforce with skills in STEM, particularly in CT skills and engineering.

As part of the undergraduate curriculum, the primary investigator teaches science, mathematics, and instructional technology methods courses to elementary PSTs enrolled in a cohort program. This teaching assignment provided an opportunity to prepare future teachers to embed CT practices within mathematics and science as they engaged in CT activities throughout the semester aligned with the maker education movement and CS initiatives.

Research questions guiding this study were as follows:

How do comprehensive mathematics and science CT interventions (educational robotics, 3D printing, and maker-centered learning) impact PSTs’:

  • self-perceptions of technological pedagogical content knowledge?
  • science teaching efficacy beliefs?
  • self-efficacy for and use of CT within mathematics and science instruction?

The rationale for these research questions is illustrated further in the following literature review by documented elementary PST misconceptions of the meaning of CT, as well as elementary PSTs’ lack of self-efficacy for teaching science and associated STEM fields. The motivation for redesigning science, mathematics, and instructional technology courses was to provide opportunities for PSTs to practice using disciplinary-specific CT skills, teach a mathematics, science, or STEM lesson that integrates CT skills, and reflect upon how these opportunities impacted their perceptions of TPACK and self-efficacy for these disciplines over the course of a semester.

PSTs often uptake and implement practices in which they have personal experience; therefore, their experiences using technology and CT practices in education courses critically impacts their use as they transition to their own classrooms (Rodriguez et al., 2019; Yuan et al., 2019). The literature review also illustrates that developing PST pedagogical content knowledge for disciplinary-specific CT is a relatively emergent field of research and the need exists to contribute to this literature base.

Literature Review

What Is Computational Thinking?

CT is characterized by problem solving, modeling, data mining, networking, algorithmic reasoning, programming, designing solutions, communicating thoughts in a creative, organized way, and debugging (CSTA, 2016; Sneider et al., 2014). The K-12 CS Framework (CSTA, 2016) has outlined clear relationships between CS, science, engineering, and mathematical practices embedded within the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NRC, 2012) and Common Core State Math Standards (CCSMS; National Governors Association Center for Best Practices & Council of Chief State School Officers, 2010). Weintrop et al. (2016) developed a CT in mathematics and science practices taxonomy that includes four major categories, including Data Practices, Modeling and Simulation Practices, Computational Problem-Solving Practices, and Systems Thinking Practices.

While CS concepts and skills are outlined clearly in current standards, they are new to students, teachers, and other stakeholders who often incorrectly label basic computer literacy activities such as creating documents and searching the internet as CT skills (CSTA, 2016, International Society for Technology in Education, 2018). Sands et al. (2018) surveyed teachers and found that many lacked an understanding of the core components of CT and lacked awareness of how these skills can be implemented in classrooms.  

CT and Elementary Preservice Teachers

Elementary teachers often lack knowledge and self-confidence in STEM fields as well as CS and CT (Kaya et al., 2018; Novak & Wisdom, 2018; van Aalderen-Smeets & Walma van der Molen, 2015). Surveys of PSTs indicate that they have misconceptions regarding the meaning of CT and often equate CT as using technology rather than as a problem-solving process (Cabrera, 2019; Yadav et al., 2011). Sands et al. (2018) claimed the need to prepare PSTs in CT practices regardless of their respective academic discipline. Yadav et al. (2017) claimed that teacher educators can help PSTs develop CT skills by redesigning educational technology courses to introduce the core ideas of CT and use methods courses to help develop PSTs’ understanding of CT within the context of the discipline. Mouza et al. (2017) noted that PST graduates should be prepared to infuse CT skills into the curriculum from primary grades through secondary education given the importance of CT in the 21st century.

Mason and Rich (2019) conducted a literature review of current elementary, K-6, preservice, and in-service teacher research from 2008-2018 focused on attitudes, self-efficacy, or knowledge to teach computing, coding, or CT. They identified and analyzed 21 studies,12 with PSTs using elements of effective PST preparation based on recommendations from Ertmer and Ottenbreit-Leftwich (2010). Recommendations for teacher preparation programs are to provide opportunities for candidates to observe, practice and reflect as a means to increase content, technological, and pedagogical knowledge and improve attitudes, self-efficacy, and beliefs. Findings included that this type of teacher training was emergent with the majority of these studies published from 2017-2018. The main focus has been to improve content knowledge and attitudes toward CS, with limited emphasis on developing pedagogical knowledge. Implications for teacher educators are that PST training should include modeling and opportunities to practice, teach, and reflect upon CS activities in authentic contexts.

Several recent studies since the Mason and Rich (2019) literature review have looked at ways to influence elementary PST confidence and use of CS and CT and maker-centered learning. Kaya et al. (2019) described how a 3-week CT intervention focused on code.org (https://code.org/) curriculum, robotics, and gaming in an elementary PST course positively impacted self-efficacy, interest, and confidence.

McGinnis et al. (2020) described a three-session CT module within a science methods course, including an introduction to CT and the NGSS, challenges through robotics, and CT integration through citizen science. The semester culminated with teaching a lesson integrating CT as part of PST internship placements. They found that although PSTs were receptive to using CT and found it beneficial to students, future research should support PSTs in comparing and contrasting educational technology, scientific inquiry, and CT. Major implications of their study included how PSTs could benefit from discussing how to integrate CT without technology and providing examples of lessons that integrate CT at the elementary level. Yuan et al. (2019) explored how elementary PSTs designed lesson plans integrating robotics after participation in a robotics module in an education course. Implications for teacher educators included providing PSTs opportunities for productive struggle within a robotics learning environment and content-specific training and modeling to help PSTs determine how to integrate robotics within and across disciplines.

Based upon the need to develop PSTs’ pedagogical knowledge within the context of disciplinary CT, often with the use of technological tools, the TPACK Framework and Substitution Augmentation Modification Redefinition (SAMR) models served as guiding technological frameworks for this project. Both the TPACK framework and the SAMR model were introduced to PSTs early within the semester of the interventions and referred to throughout the semester.

TPACK Framework and SAMR Model

As described by Mishra and Koehler (2006) the TPACK framework explores how technology is integrated with teaching through the overlapping constructs of technology, content, and pedagogy. The TPACK framework builds on the work of Shulman (1986) and is based upon the need for teachers to build subject-specific pedagogical content knowledge. The proper use of TPACK emphasizes the context-specific nature of incorporating digital technology with expert knowledge of best practices within specific disciplines (Bull et al., 2019; Koehler et al., 2013).

The SAMR model is a framework used to assess and evaluate digital technology use in the classroom (Puentedura, 2010). The model includes four levels divided into two sections as a means to promote teacher reflection and technology integration. First, the Enhancement section consists of the Substitution (technology acts as a tool substitute) and Augmentation (adds a functional change) levels. Next, the Transformation section consists of the Modification (task redesign) and Redefinition (creation of new tasks) levels. The challenge is for teachers to develop tasks within the Transformation section that lead to different learning from students, which can include greater student engagement and, ultimately, increased student achievement and learning.     

Cohort Design

The population included two cohorts of elementary education PSTs from fall 2018 (n = 9) and fall 2019 (n = 12). All students were first semester juniors in a 4-year elementary education licensure program. Each cohort was enrolled in four courses with the primary investigator including science methods (3 credit hours), mathematics methods (3 credit hours), instructional technology (3 credit hours), and a 60-hour practicum placement that allowed an opportunity for meaningful STEM and CT integration as outlined in Figure 1.

Figure 1    Map of CT Curricular Interventions Fall 2018/2019 Cohorts

PSTs were encouraged to develop a maker-mindset throughout the semester as they developed CT practices and worked through successes and failures, particularly with programming and 3D printing (Martin, 2015). As they actively designed and built digital or physical objects through trial and error and perseverance, they were asked to focus on developing a growth mindset (Dweck, 2008).

During the science methods course, PSTs developed investigations and modules that focused on three-dimensional instruction and assessment focused on real-world phenomena incorporating disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. One of their first tasks was an engineering design challenge of creating and launching a bottle rocket as a team and collecting and analyzing data using a spreadsheet (amount of water added, air pressure added in PSI, time in air, and altitude of flight with an altimeter).  This particular task provided an introduction to specific CT practices in the form of collecting, manipulating, analyzing and visualizing data and the use of systems thinking practices by understanding the relationships within a system (bottle rocket, launcher, and materials) and communicating information about the system (Weintrop et al., 2016). One module in the mathematics methods course was an introduction to growth and fixed mindset (Dweck, 2006), which PSTs were encouraged to apply throughout the entire semester as well as emphasize in their classroom practicum placements.

The instructional technology course served as a platform to prepare the PSTs to develop and apply disciplinary-specific CT activities and lessons that addressed both three-dimensional science instruction and mathematical practices. They were introduced to the TPACK Framework and SAMR Model. The fall 2019 cohort was asked to apply an understanding of these models as part of the rationale for a culminating lesson that they team-taught to elementary students.

CT Interventions/Curricular Modules

Collaboration With Local School

The primary investigator reached out to a local grades 5-8 middle school in which a number of the PSTs would be placed for their practicum in fifth-grade science or mathematics. This particular school also had an active makerspace in its library, and arrangements were made to have the fifth-grade students introduce the makerspace tools to the PSTs.

We took one 3-hour class and used it for a field trip to the middle school, and three different fifth-grade classes (1-hour each) taught about the tools in stations. Each PST spent 10-15 minutes with a small group of expert fifth graders, in which they were taught some basics about the tool and wrote reflective notes. The stations included 3-D pens, Little Bits, Snap Circuits, MakeyMakey, Osmo, Green Screen, Stop Motion/Lego Wall, Bloxels, Wonder Workshop’s Dash, Make Do Construction, and Ozobots. A goal of this collaborative effort was to ask the PSTs to plan lessons that could be used within their practicum placements that integrated at least one of the makerspace tools along with incorporating disciplinary CT within science and mathematics. These lessons, in turn, could serve as models for in-service teachers as ways in which they could teach content and incorporate CT and makerspace tools within their classrooms. 

The field trip to the makerspace was followed closely with an assigned reading from the March 2018 issue of the National Science Teacher Association’s Science and Children that had a central focus on the maker movement. Each PST read, “Making Sense of Makerspaces” (Froschauer, 2018) and was assigned one of four articles: “School Maker Faires” (Harlow & Hansen, 2018), “3D Print Stop Printing” (Wright et al., 2018), “Mars Mission Specialist” (Burton et al., 2018), or “Plastic Pollution to Solution”(Kitagawa et al., 2018). PSTs who read the same article contributed main ideas and reflections to a shared online concept map that was used to describe the article to the rest of the class.

Hour of Code and Reading

Students completed an hour of code using a drag-and-drop coding format with Code.org studio’s Classic Maze featuring Angry Birds, https://studio.code.org/hoc/1. This hour of code has 20 modules, or scenarios, with video segments that explain different CS and CT concepts (code, debugging, algorithm, repeat loops, repeat until, and if-else statements). In addition, they were asked to complete a brief internet search for ways teachers use coding effectively with elementary students.

After completing the basic hour of code they read “Exploring the Science Framework and the NGSS: Computational Thinking in Elementary School Classrooms” (Sneider et al., 2014). They explored a PHET simulation (https://phet.colorado.edu/) and one of the 11 Scratch Tutorials found at https://scratch.mit.edu/tips. The PSTs also read portions of “Defining Computational Thinking for Mathematics and Science Classrooms”(Weintrop et al., 2016), focused on describing the four CT practices in the article. We discussed as a class that, even though the taxonomy focuses on the use of computational tools, CT also addresses unplugged activities or modeling and thinking practices that do not include computers or technology.

Robotics and Makerspace Inquiries

The inquiry required the PSTs to work with two different tools, the majority of which were introduced briefly in stations with the local middle school. The ultimate goal was to take the PSTs beyond basic use of each tool for standalone programming toward integration of the tool with engineering design and the core ideas of mathematics or life, physical, or earth and space science at the K-5 level.

PSTs either worked individually or with a small group to select one lesson plan using the tool with guidance from the primary investigator. They were asked to carry out the lesson plan and complete the steps as K-5 students would by documenting their work using written reflection, pictures, screenshots of programming, and annotated sketches. Finally, they reflected on how the tool could be used in the elementary classroom. See Appendix A for sample student artifacts.

The robotics inquiries used kits that featured a drag-and-drop programming interface allowing a focus on computational concepts instead of the syntax of a specific programming language (Ching et al., 2018; Nash, 2017). These kits made the process of learning abstract CT concepts more tangible, as PTSs were able to interact with, observe, and troubleshoot the robot in action. The online curriculum provided with Wonder Workshop’s Dash & Dot (https://www.makewonder.com/classroom/curriculum-2/), Sphero (https://edu.sphero.com/), Lego Education WeDo 2.0 (https://education.lego.com/en-us/lessons), and Ozobot Evo (https://ozobot.com/educate/lessons) provided real-world applications to develop CT as part of STEM concepts including science and engineering practices based real-world applications. These inquiries incorporated both physical building such as using the Lego bricks or creating mazes and digital building through programming.

3D Printing and City X

Our classroom included three DaVinci Jr. 1.0 Wireless 3D printers from XYZ printing, which are low-cost machines that are easy to set up, troubleshoot, and operate. Three-dimensional printing comes with specialized vocabulary and skills, so the PSTs needed to learn the basics, including the file type supported by the printer (STL), 3D printer hardware basics (X, Y, and Z axes, extruder, print bed, how to load and unload filament, etc.) and when they should choose to add supports or a raft to their print. To begin their exposure to 3D printing, each student was asked to locate one object from Thingiverse (https://www.thingiverse.com/) to print.

The PSTs used a free online program called Tinkercad (https://www.tinkercad.com/) that allows the user to create designs for objects that can be downloaded as STL files and printed on a 3D printer (Autodesk Inc., 2019). They used Tinkercad as part of the City X project, which uses the design process for solving problems with 3D printing from Stanford d.school (https://dschool.stanford.edu/).

City X (http://www.cityxproject.com/) was developed for children 8-12 years old and challenges students to solve the problems of humans who have traveled to live on an alien planet. The PSTs worked in teams to solve social problems related to environment, food, safety, communication, health, energy, education and transportation as presented by citizens of City X. They used the design process to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test, and share while using an inventor’s workbook, sketching and annotating, designing with playdough, and calculating dimensions prior to designing their object using Tinkercad. Each PST was asked to design a part of the solution for their selected citizen to ensure that they each had a part in creating a prototype. The PSTs also spent time troubleshooting and reprinting their objects as needed to find the best fit for their collective design. See Appendix B for an example project from each cohort.

Participating in the City X project and designing their prototype in Tinkercad allowed the PSTs to experience directly and develop CT practices, including decomposing a problem presented by a citizen of City X into manageable parts, using abstraction by reducing unnecessary details, and using algorithmic thinking by developing a written plan and design with playdough that provided a step-by-step guide for creating the model using Tinkercad. In addition, the use of Tinkercad to create the models allowed for investigating a complex system as a whole and understanding the relationships within a system (Weintrop et al., 2016). Each PST designed several iterations of a prototype through troubleshooting a portion of the solution for each selected citizen of City X.

STEM Nights

Each PST was required to participate in two STEM nights held at local schools and were responsible for leading at least two stations as part of a team as seen in Figure 2. The in-service teachers at each school also hosted several of their own stations and invited community members to host stations as well. With the number of stations available for children to choose from, the time allotted to visit each station ranged between 5 to 15 minutes. The events offered at each STEM night progressed as PST knowledge of the tools grew throughout the semester.

Figure 2  STEM Night Stations

Lesson Plans During Practicum Placements  

The final activity for each cohort was to plan and team teach a lesson that addressed disciplinary CT in mathematics or science for grades 3-5 students in their practicum placements in early December. This activity provided an important extension beyond what was possible in the STEM nights, which only touched the surface of using CT for subject-specific instruction. Each team was able to teach the lesson to at least two groups of students.

PSTs used lessons adapted from those found online to incorporate literacy in the form of asking students to read informational texts and write about what they had learned. The fall 2018 lesson plan template and reflection template came from the UTeach Maker Lesson Planning Guide and summary (https://maker.uteach.utexas.edu/uteach-maker-lesson-bank). The fall 2019 lesson plan template mirrored the format the PSTs used for the rest of their courses, which included references to TPACK, SAMR, and mathematics and science CT practices as research and rationale to support the lesson (Weintrop et al., 2016). See Appendix C for example lesson plans and reflections.

Connection to Industry

In fall 2019 we scheduled a 1-day field trip to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Manufacturing Demonstration Facility (MDF) which is the “nation’s only large-scale open-access facility for rapidly demonstrating early-stage R&D manufacturing technologies and optimizing critical processes” (ORNL, n.d.). The tour enabled the PSTs to see real-world applications and the problem-solving capabilities of engineers using robotics and additive manufacturing situated within their local community. We also had guided tours of the Building Technologies Research and Integration Center and the National Center for Computational Sciences to learn about supercomputers including Titan, Gaia, and Tiny Titan. We concluded our day with a Women in Computing roundtable, in which the PSTs were able to speak with three different women about their experiences working at ORNL. Top take-aways from this roundtable were that more women are needed in their fields and there are ways that teachers can begin working with students to develop CT skills, particularly data analysis skills with spreadsheets.

Big Orange STEM Saturday Conference Attendance

Seven out of the nine fall 2018 cohort attended the Big Orange STEM Saturday conference. The students had a choice of attending two different sessions and a keynote speaker with lunch. The keynote speaker described the use of makerspaces in libraries, and sessions attended by the PSTs included ways to use 3D printers in the classroom, hands-on math focused on designing models and questioning strategies, and using phenomena in NGSS designed lessons and units. These sessions added to the PST awareness of ways tools and strategies emphasized in our methods classes are being used in the classroom.    

Tennessee Mathematics and Science Teachers Association Presentation

All 12 PSTs of the fall 2019 cohort and two members of the fall 2018 cohort attended and presented a session at the joint conference of the Tennessee Mathematics and Science Teachers Associations in late November 2019. They received funding from the university to pay for their mileage, lodging, and conference registration fees. They shared lesson plans and activities they were planning to use in their practicum placements that showcased the use of robotics and 3D printers or pens within mathematics and science classes. They set up the equipment and shared hard copies of their lessons with in-service teachers as attendees rotated through the stations in the room.

Methods

This study was designed using a mixed methodology approach of collecting qualitative and quantitative data, because both types of data had equal value for understanding the research questions (as recommended by Buchholtz, 2019; Creswell & Clark, 2017). A convergent parallel design was used to collect both types of data concurrently (Creswell & Clark, 2017). Quantitative data were collected using the TPACK assessment (Schmidt et al., 2009), the Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Instrument (STEBI) assessment (Riggs & Enochs, 1990), and a CT Self-Efficacy assessment compiled from several different sources (Rich et al., 2017; Yadav et al., 2011). Pre and post quantitative data were analyzed using paired sample t-tests with the use of a Bonferroni correction to determine the statistical significance of changes.

Narrative analysis was used to discover emergent themes within the qualitative data collected pre- and postparticipation (as advised in Patton, 1990). Participant responses to three open-ended prompts included on the CT Self-Efficacy assessment were analyzed to search for similarities and differences between participant ideas to identify the emergent themes. Select PST reflections for major assignments and the rationale for lesson plans also serve as examples of qualitative data.

Time was provided in class for participants to complete assessments at the beginning of the semester and again at the end of the semester to determine the impact of course interventions upon participant beliefs. The PSTs signed informed consent forms, which stated that they would be expected to complete the pre- and postsurveys and required coursework and that they had the right to decide if the data from their individual surveys and completed coursework could be used for research purposes. All members of each participating cohort agreed to participate in the study. No incentives or compensation were associated with this project for participation. The PSTs did not receive grades for completing the surveys; however, their inquiries, lesson plans, and presentations were graded assignments. 

TPACK Survey

The TPACK assessment included 46 Likert-scale items divided into categories taken from the Survey of Preservice Teachers’ Knowledge of Teaching and Technology (Schmidt et al., 2009). As recommended by Schmidt et al., each item response was scored with a value of 1 for strongly disagree to 5 for strongly agree. The participants’ responses were averaged over all 46 questions. Additionally, the participants’ responses were averaged over each construct. For example, the six questions addressing technology knowledge (TK) were averaged to produce one score.

STEBI

The STEBI was used to measure changes in PSTs’ perceived efficacy in teaching science (Riggs & Enochs, 1990). The STEBI contains 13 positively written item statements and 10 negatively written item statements divided among two scales. The response alternatives for each item are in a Likert-style format, including strongly agree, agree, uncertain, disagree, and strongly disagree. The two scales include the Personal Science Teaching Efficacy Belief Scale (PE – self-efficacy dimension) and Science Teaching Outcome Expectancy Scale (OE -outcome expectancy dimension).

Personal teaching efficacy is the “belief in one’s capabilities to organize and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments, whereas outcome expectancy is a judgment of the likely consequence such performances will produce” (Bandura, 1997, p.3). The participants’ responses were averaged as recommended by Riggs and Enochs (1990) for both the PE and OE scales, and a paired sample t-test was completed to determine the level of significance of any changes.  

CT Assessment

The CT Assessment survey consisted of five Likert-scale items to measure Teaching CT Efficacy focusing primarily on programming skills (see Appendix D). This survey was not prepared in time to use with the fall 2018 cohort; therefore, it was only used with the fall 2019 cohort. Each item response is scored with a value of 1 for strongly disagree to 5 for strongly agree. The participant’s responses were averaged over all five questions, and a paired sample t-test was completed to determine the level of significance of any changes. The CT Assessment also included three open-ended questions to determine PST views of what is CT, ways CT can be integrated in the classroom, and ways CT relates to other disciplines and fields with examples.

Findings

TPACK Survey

A paired sample t-test was computed for the participant’s average responses over all the questions to show a significant change (p < 0.001) for both fall 2018 and fall 2019 cohorts. To determine the individual contributions, paired sample t-tests were performed on each construct. Once a Bonferroni correction was imposed, five constructs showed a statistically significant increase for the fall 2018 cohort including content knowledge (CK), pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), pedagogical knowledge (PK), technological pedagogical knowledge (TPK), and TPACK. Three constructs, TK, TPK, and TPACK showed a statistically significant increase for the fall 2019 cohort. Table 1 includes the participant average results for pre- and post-TPACK and standard deviation, along with the p-value to help illustrate the contribution of each construct to the overall statistical significance for both cohorts.

Table 1   Pre and Post TPACK Assessment Results

TPACK SubscaleFall 2018

n = 9
Fall 2019

n = 12
 MeanSDp valueMeanSDp value
TK (6 items)
Pre3.410.33 3.570.67 
Post3.890.270.00744.220.510.0001***
CK (12 items)
Pre3.390.14 3.750.36 
Post3.780.340.0023*3.870.310.1330
PK (7 items)
Pre3.190.47 3.920.38 
Post4.050.330.0014**4.220.430.0136
PCK (4 items)
Pre2.970.38 3.670.33 
Post3.750.330.0014*4.000.350.0077
TCK (4 items)
Pre3.000.71 3.400.70 
Post3.860.240.00883.940.490.0176
TPK (9 items)
Pre3.410.41 3.890.59 
Post4.220.310.0014**4.360.420.0007**
TPACK (4 items)
Pre2.670.47 3.500.56 
Post3.810.420.0002**4.040.390.0049*
Note. Pretest and posttest scores are averages between 1 and 5.
*p < 0.05. **p < 0.01. ***p < 0.001.

STEBI

The range of scores for the PE scale was 13 to 65 points. A paired sample t-test was computed for the participant’s average responses for the PE scale to show a significant change (p < 0.01) for both fall 2018 and fall 2019 cohorts. The range of scores for the OE scale was 10 to 50 points. A paired sample t-test was computed for the participant’s average responses for the OE scale to show no significant change for both fall 2018 and fall 2019 cohorts. Table 2 includes the participant average results for pre and post PE and OE beliefs scores and standard deviation, along with the p-value to help illustrate the contribution of each construct to the overall statistical significance for both cohorts.

Table 2   Science Teaching Efficacy Beliefs 

CriteriaFall 2018 Participants
n = 9
Fall 2019 Participants
= 12
 MSDp-ValueMSDp-Value
Pre-PE39.93.07 45.14.50 
Post-PE44.42.91**p < 0.0149.94.84**p < 0.01
Pre-OE32.62.75 34.53.89 
Post-OE322.98p = 0.28334.16.37p = 0.395
*p < 0.05. **p < 0.01.

CT Assessment

A paired sample t-test was computed for the participant’s average responses over the five Likert-style questions to show a significant change (p < 0.0001). To determine the individual contributions, paired sample t-tests were performed on each question. Once a Bonferroni correction was imposed, all five questions showed a statistically significant increase. Table 3 includes the participant average results for pre and post Teaching CT Efficacy, which focused on teaching coding and programming skills, and standard deviation, along with the p-value.

Table 3   Teaching CT Efficacy Assessment – Likert-Scale Items

CriteriaPretestPosttest p value
 MSDMSD 
Teaching CT-E

(5 items)
2.930.664.050.700.000065****
1. I can explain basic programming concepts to children.2.580.953.830.550.000065***
2. I know where to find the resources to help students learn to code.3.170.904.170.900.0020**
3. I can find applications for coding that are relevant for students.3.420.864.420.490.00033**
4. I can integrate coding into lessons I teach.3.170.554.170.800.00094**
 5. I can help students debug their code. 2.33 0.75 3.67 1.31 0.0031*
 Note. Fall 2019 only; n = 12; Pretest and posttest scores are averages between 1 and 5. Individual items 1-5 significance levels include a Bonferroni correction.

*p < 0.05. **p < 0.01. ***p < 0.001. ****p < 0.0001.

The CT Assessment also included three open-ended questions to determine PST views of what is CT, ways CT can be integrated in the classroom, and ways CT relates to other disciplines and fields with examples. In most cases, PST responses aligned with the themes used for these prompts by Yadav et al. (2011), so similar themes were used for this study. Table 4 includes a summary of PST pre and post responses for each question.

Table 4   CT Assessment – Open Ended Items

PromptsThemesPrePost
Views of CTThe process of solving problems33
 The process of solving problems like a computer23
 The process of solving problems with a computer14
 The use of computers22
 Not sure30
 Other (coding; thinking in a math/science type way; thinking outside of a standard way)10
Integrating CT in the ClassroomPromote problem solving skills/critical thinking in the classroom (including coding)76
 Utilizing computers and technology in the classroom

(Post: described using makerspace stations & coding apps; coding robotics; program with Lego WeDo)
36
 Not sure20
Relationship of CT to Other FieldsRelates to any and all fields410
 Mention of specific fields (Mathematics, Technology, Education)21
 Other (related to everyday life; mentioned specific skills rather than fields)40
 Not sure21
Note. Fall 2019 only; n = 12.

Four themes were isolated in participant descriptions of CT.  The three most common themes accurately described CT as pertaining to problem solving and included problem solving, in general, solving problems like a computer, and solving problems with a computer. Six PSTs referred to problem solving themes in the preassessment, compared to 10 in the postassessment. The fourth theme was an inaccurate view of CT as the “use of computers,” with two instances on both the pre- and postassessments. One PST stated they did not know what CT was on the presurvey, and three other PSTs had unique and incomplete views on the definition including, “Coding,” “It is thinking in a more science and math type of way. It is incorporating those two things into one and you have to think that way,” and “Thinking outside of the standard way of thinking.”

When asked how CT could be integrated into the classroom, roughly half of the PSTs referred accurately to “problem solving skills/critical thinking” on both the pre- and postsurveys. Three referred to “utilizing computers and technology in the classroom” on the presurvey compared to six on the postsurvey. While using computers and technology in the classroom can be a way to incorporate CT in the classroom, using computers alone does not automatically ensure that CT is being used. PSTs who displayed this trend on the postsurvey referred to tools that we used during the semester, such as makerspace station tools, coding applications, and robotics. Two PSTs stated that they did not know how to integrate CT in the classroom on the presurvey, while none of the PSTs made this claim on the postsurvey.

To further illustrate participant views and changes over the course of the semester, four participant responses to what is CT and their associated suggestions for ways to integrate CT in the classroom are summarized as follows (see Appendix E). Participant A held the limited and erroneous view of CT as the use of computers throughout the semester; however, her view transformed to include the idea of “thought processes” needed to use a computer. Participant A also showed some growth in the types of computer usage from using computer software to complete projects at the beginning of the semester to using software for coding and makerspace projects at the end of the semester.

Participant B was consistent in her view of CT aligned with the theme as a process of solving problems. She referred to using procedures in both assessments; however, in the postassessment she claimed that students could be helped to equate using steps and procedures to “strings of code.”

Participant C’s view of CT transformed from the process of solving problems to the process of solving problems with a computer by the end of the semester. She provided a general example of asking students to use technology to solve real-world problems at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, Participant C provided a specific example of CT use observed at a local STEM night, in which students could use software at the school to view and troubleshoot models of a heart or other objects such as robots.

Participant D’s view of CT transformed from the process of solving problems to the process of solving problems like a computer by the end of the semester. She suggested adding coding activities in the classroom as a means for students to solve problems at the beginning of the semester. At the end of the semester, Participant D suggested that students could be provided problems and asked to solve them as a computer would with her example of how CT is similar to solving problems like a computer.

PSTs were asked to describe how CT relates to other disciplines and fields with examples. On the presurvey four made a statement that reflected the trend that CT “relates to any and all fields” as compared to 10 PSTs on the postsurvey. Two mentioned specific fields on the presurvey compared to one on the postsurvey, as represented by the follwoing statement: “Computational thinking relates to math and technology.”

On the presurvey four PSTs described how CT related to everyday life or specific skills rather than a discipline or field, such as in the following statements:

“Computational thinking relates to things such as working with others, solving real-world problems, fixing items, etc.”
“It is used in everyday lives. Once you can do computational thinking you can understand and have a deeper thinking process.”

Two PSTs stated that they could not describe a relationship to other fields on the presurvey as compared to one on the postsurvey.

Assignment Reflections

Reflection of Hour of Code and Reading

In describing their experiences with the hour of code and reflections upon what they discovered from way teachers used programming, most of the PSTs described excitement and a positive disposition, including the aspects of coding and programming that they were learning, skills of perseverance and developing a growth mindset, and the importance of using these activities with children. A recurring theme found throughout the reflections was the importance of troubleshooting leading to perseverance, as represented in the following quote:

I think the biggest take away from the angry bird activity was there were 20 different levels to complete, and I had to think a little bit about perspective and direction. … I was forced to step outside of myself in more ways than one. Grit in the classroom is a high priority for me, and coding is a great way to practice this. Overcoming a fear can be contagious. As the adult in the room I hope that learners will model an open and growth centered mindset where coding and other technology is concerned. (Fall 2019 cohort, female)

Another theme included underlying aspects of coding, such as problem-solving skills that are developed as well as ways to integrate these skills, as illustrated in the following quote:

The good news is the building blocks for coding actually has nothing to do with computers and can be introduced and taught at even the kindergarten level. Simple logic and reasoning skills, combined with critical thinking, make up the foundation of coding and programming. Also, embarrassing mistakes and eliminating fear of failure is a great way to foster these skills. A more coding specific approach has many possibilities. There are numerous programs and websites available to have students learn about and delve into the world of coding. Sites like Scratch by MIT, Pyonkee, Hopscotch, Tynker, and Google CS, are just a few of the many hands-on resources available. Makerspace is also an excellent resource to find fun and engaging ways to introduce and build coding skills to elementary students. (Fall 2018 cohort, male)

The PSTs state that what they were learning should be integrated within elementary classrooms, as illustrated in the following quotation:

I also enjoyed the Hour of Code because I think it could be a good teaching tool for introduction of Elementary Programming…. Computer programming could not be taught early enough in my opinion, and it is awesome to learn about different elementary school systems incorporating it into their curriculum. (Fall 2019 cohort, female)

One PST in the fall 2018 cohort felt differently: “I struggled with the hour of code. I personally did not like it, the videos for the instructions were not clear to me and I did not fully understand where I was supposed to put a lot of the codes.”

Reflection of Robotics and Makerspace Inquiries

PST reflections regarding the robotics and makerspace inquiries during methods classes focused on how each tool could be used to teach subjects at the elementary level. A member of the fall 2018 cohort described how the Lego WeDo 2.0 robotics lesson that she participated in helped her learn science content about flooding, science and engineering practices, and coding skills as follows:

I personally think that the lessons LEGO WeDo 2.0 provides are great for STEM. Any lesson selected lends itself to a variety of science topics involving technology and mathematical aspects. My particular lesson involved the exploration of flooding and how to prevent a flood, problem-solving, following directions, coding, and engineering and design. I think that this lesson would be very practical to implement in the elementary education setting, as it teaches a multitude of skills. Just based on my own exposure to this makerspace tool, I know that it challenged me to follow directions, put my coding skills to the test, and organize my thoughts and data appropriately. Therefore, this lesson would be very beneficial in the elementary classroom as well.

A member of the fall 2019 cohort described how a lesson on sun-earth-moon relationships using the Ozobot Evo helped her develop an understanding of how to make these concepts tangible for children through the experience using coding blocks to tell the robot how to perform, as follows:

It pertains to eclipses and celestial mechanics (with Ozobot Evo) — basically, for what I did (3rd grade level), students will see how gravity pulls more when the moon is closer (causing it to travel more quickly) and pulls less when the moon is further away (causing it to slow down). When they start using a flashlight, they can see where the moon and earth’s placement is for a solar and lunar eclipse to occur. This activity is beneficial to an elementary classroom as it allows students to visualize actions they may normally just read about in a textbook or watch a video of. I feel like this will allow for a more clear, better understanding of the content that is presented. Students can have fun doing it while learning a lot about the material. There are only 4 different OzoCodes used and two codes to be programmed into OzoBlockly, so it is fairly simple for third graders.

A pair of students from the fall 2019 cohort described the use of a mathematics activity using the Sphero SPRK+ robot as follows:

We used the Sphero SPRK+ to do a perimeter activity. This was for grades 3-5, and the Sphero, along with the Sphero Edu app guided the whole thing. After a quick introduction, we drew the shapes given, looked at the sensor chart to get the measurements and solved from there. It was a very fun learning experiment. This activity was a great introduction to perimeter. It allowed students to have a way of learning that was informative while also being fun. Students are able to draw different shapes and even change the color.

A member of the fall 2019 cohort described the use of the Dash Robot to develop storytelling skills along with the science and engineering practices of communication and collaboration while developing coding skills, as follows:

Dash Robot is an interactive tool that can help students develop new coding and robotics skills. Also, through the use of this robot, students may practice problem-solving and critical thinking skills. One way Dash could fit into curriculum is through the use of creative storytelling. For my Inquiry Assignment, I completed a lesson that was written as a creative scene or story. When using Dash, a teacher might ask students to embrace their creativity and incorporate the Dash bot into a story. Students could give Dash functions, such as, talking, moving, flashing lights, etc. Dash bot could also be used for collaboration purposes. Students could be asked to work together to solve a problem, create a story, or complete a task involving Dash. Coding Dash to make certain sounds, such as, farm animals, could help increase sensory and memorization skills. Because of this, Dash is much more than a toy. Dash can be used to teach students coding and robotics skills that will carry them throughout their life in a world of continuously-shifting technology.

Reflection of City X and 3D printing

PSTs were asked to reflect upon the process of designing a 3D product to meet the needs of a customer, constraints, and successes and challenges with the 3D design process. An illustration follows of reflections from two different teams of how they solved Allesia’s needs, a citizen of City X. Allesia’s profile stated, “I want to visit my cousin on the other side of this river but Mom said I’m not allowed to swim across.” The first team chose to create a bridge and one team member described constraints and efforts used to troubleshoot within the following concluding reflection:

As a team, we successfully met Allessia’s need. She has a bridge that will allow her to cross over the river and stay out of the water. We all had to work very closely together in order to correctly scale our designs to fit each other’s (they all required some way of being linked together). There were definitely some time constraints, as we could only work together and collaborate during class for the most part. We were successful as we met the need. There were challenges getting all of our designs to properly line up with identical measurements since they were 3 separate pieces. I struggled with the supports at first because the first support I printed did not match up with Brandon’s. I fixed this by taking his finished piece and measuring how far away the holes were for my piece to fit into. This was a huge help because I could see exactly where they went. I did have to end up using sandpaper to get some of the edges off of the bottoms of the support, but once I did that the supports fit perfectly into Brandon’s piece. 

The second team chose to create a boat, and one team member included the following concluding reflection:

The 3-D design process, in goal of meeting the needs of a customer, requires a good amount of trial and error and problem-solving. First, you have to reflect on the problem or situation the customer presents, and then creatively design a solution. You also have to consider major factors and minor factors, just as we have done with Allessia. Along with solving her problem for crossing the river, we also made sure to take protection, time, and efficiency into account. I am excited to see that it came together and although the dimensions may not be exact, the final product looks to scale. There are time constraints as with any project and design. I think that this is normal and could have been for Alessia too. I do wish we would have explored the idea of resources and available tools.  This may have made the functionality of the boat a little more true to her needs and constraints.

Since each person within a team had to develop a different artifact for the solution, common challenges and constraints among every team were creating parts of the design to scale and getting the pieces to fit together to create their final product.

Lesson Plan Rationale

The fall 2019 cohort was asked to add a rationale to their lesson plans that they were able to teach in a grades 3-5 classroom, stating how the TPACK model, SAMR model, and CT in mathematics and science taxonomy (Weintrop et al., 2016) applied to the design of the lesson and activities used throughout. In the rationale for the fourth-grade lesson using Tinkercad to design animal habitats (see Appendix F, Part 1) the students were able to describe variants of PCK that they used in developing their plan. They accurately described TPK (introduction to using Tinkercad), TCK and TK (use of technology to teach the content), PK and PCK (introduction to Tinkercad, inquiry-based instruction, and use of phenomenon).

They described the use of the Redefinition level of SAMR model through the use of brainstorming the components of a habitat for a zoo animal and designing that habitat through Tinkercad and, subsequently, printing the 3D model. Finally, they described CT mathematics and science practices used within the lesson by students, including visualizing and manipulating data, designing and constructing computational models, developing and troubleshooting their computational solutions, and investigating a system and communicating information about that system.

In the rationale for the fourth-grade lesson using Lego WeDo 2.0 to design a volcano alert system (see Appendix F, Part 2) the students were able to describe variants of PCK that they used in developing their plan. They described the use of TCK (use of Legos to teach about volcanoes), TPK (introduction of ways to use Lego WeDo 2.0), and PCK (5E model [Bybee et al., 2006], phenomena, and science and engineering practices). The PSTs described the use of the Augmentation and Modification levels of the SAMR model by using the iPad to share Lego building instructions (augmentation) and building and testing a volcanic alarm robot (modification). Finally, they described CT mathematics and science practices used within the lesson by students, including modeling and simulation practices (developing a model for a volcano alert system) and computational problem-solving practices (troubleshooting code to make the robot behave appropriately).

Discussion

A limited number of preparation programs in the United States provide opportunities to develop PSTs’ CT skills, and interventions of this nature are emergent with limited emphasis on developing pedagogical content knowledge. This study fills a gap in the literature by offering training that included modeling and opportunities to practice, teach, and reflect upon activities within authentic contexts (Mason & Rich, 2019; Rodriguez et al., 2019; Yadav et al., 2017).

The results of this study’s interventions revealed several important findings as related to previous research and the associated research questions of this study. First the courses positively impacted PSTs’ self-perceptions of TPACK (Research Question 1), as shown by a statistically significantly increase (p< 0.001) in scores for both cohorts. As to commonalities for the seven individual constructs of TPACK, both cohorts showed a statistically significant increase in TPK and TPACK, and neither cohort showed a statistically significant increase for TCK. The PSTs in this study had multiple opportunities to develop specific PK for teaching with different technological tools in the context of specific disciplines, beginning with an introduction to makerspace tools from fifth-grade students, completing group and individual inquiries with robotics and 3D printing, leading stations at STEM nights, and coteaching a lesson for third-, fourth-, or fifth-grade students.

These interventions were in direct response to recommendations for preparing new teachers to integrate CT within specific disciplines by redesigning educational technology courses to introduce the core ideas of CT and using methods courses to apply CT within the context of a discipline (Yadav et al., 2016, 2017). The fall 2018 cohort showed statistically significant increases for CK, PK, and PCK, while the fall 2019 cohort showed a statistically significant increase for TK.

The courses positively impacted PSTs’ self-efficacy, as shown by a statistically significant increase in both cohorts’ PE, as measured by the STEBI instrument (Research Question 2). Increases in PE scores correlate with a belief in the ability to teach science effectively. Elementary teachers often have a lack of knowledge and self-confidence in STEM fields. This positive change in PSTs’ beliefs is meaningful (Novak & Wisdom, 2018; van Aalderen-Smeets & Walma van der Molen, 2015). Opportunities for PSTs to observe, practice, and reflect upon computing, coding, and CT interventions are a means to increase content, technological, and pedagogical knowledge and are suggested recommendations to help improve PST attitudes, self-efficacy, and beliefs (Mason & Rich, 2019).

Neither cohort showed a significant change in the average for the OE. Teachers with a high OE believe that students will be able to learn science effectively from their instruction. As described by Hechter (2010), the absence of an effect of the coursework on the OE of PSTs is not surprising, as PSTs have minimal classroom teaching experiences to provide a context for determining how well students will learn from their instruction.

In addition to the lack of knowledge and self-confidence in STEM fields, elementary teachers have a lack of confidence and misconceptions regarding CS and CT (Kaya et al., 2018; Novak & Wisdom, 2018) Participation in the courses positively impacted PST self-efficacy for and use of disciplinary CT strategies in a number of ways (Research Question 3). The fall 2019 cohort showed statistically significant increases overall on the Likert-scale items of the Teaching CT – Efficacy Assessment at the p < 0.0001 level.

Regarding the open-ended questions, the PST views of how to define CT and integrate CT in the classroom showed an increased awareness of the “process of solving problems,” whether describing situations with or without technology. In the postassessment 10 of 12 PSTs held accurate views of CT as problem solving in general or problem solving with or like a computer, as compared to two PSTs who erroneously referred to the general use of computers as CT.

After course participation, PSTs, regardless of their views of CT, gave more specific suggestions regarding the use of tools and strategies used in the courses for solving problems, such as coding and robotics. Interventions were included as recommended by Ching et al. (2018) to incorporate disciplinary specific CT instruction, such as solving community problems and completing STEM-related projects to help PSTs see the real-world applications of CT. After participation in the courses, the majority of the students (n = 10) stated that CT relates to any and all fields and disciplines, as compared to four students at the beginning of the semester.

Rodriguez et al. (2019) and Yuan et al. (2019) claimed that PSTs often use practices and strategies that they have personally experienced; therefore, their experiences using technology and CT practices in methods courses and practicum experiences critically impacts their use as they transition to their own classrooms. PST reflections of major coursework assignments revealed an understanding and use of CT within mathematics and science instruction as well as other subjects.

Yuan et al. (2019) stated the importance of providing PSTs with opportunities for productive struggle and providing content-specific training and modeling. The reflections of the hour of code activity revealed an understanding of the need to develop a growth mindset toward mistakes made during programming. The PST reflections of robotics and makerspace inquiries focused on the engagement they had with the activities and ways the activity and tool could be used to teach specific subjects at the elementary level. The City X and 3D printing reflections revealed that the PST teams had to collaborate closely to develop and troubleshoot their plans and prototypes of their objects with a particular focus on measurement and precision.

The rationale for each lesson plan that teams developed challenged the PSTs to describe how they used different categories within TPACK to design their lesson demonstrating development in pedagogical content knowledge, which SAMR levels applied to different technology-based activities within the lesson, and specific practices used from the CT in mathematics and science taxonomy (Weintrop et al., 2016). The lesson rationales provided a clear picture of each group’s understanding of these elements and illustrated a means for PSTs to showcase PK developed within the context of disciplinary CT. Teams had opportunities to discuss the rationale with the primary investigator and made modifications as needed. 

Implications for Teacher Education

This study adds to the literature for preparing elementary PSTs to use and teach disciplinary CT skills. As recommended by Yadav et al. (2011), the interventions were embedded within a redesigned instructional technology course and methods courses to help PSTs develop an understanding of CT within the context of the discipline. Additionally, this study used recommendations by Mason and Rich (2019) to focus on developing PK with opportunities to practice, teach, and reflect upon activities within authentic contexts. Using these recommendations, the instructor was able to see improvements in PSTs’ self-perceptions of TPACK, Personal Science Teaching Efficacy beliefs, and teaching CT-efficacy beliefs.

The PSTs were also able to describe specific ways they could use tools for teaching elementary content and logically apply aspects of TPACK, SAMR, and the CT in Mathematics and Science Taxonomy practices to their instruction. As PSTs developed TPACK throughout the semester they made informed choices of SAMR integration within their lesson plans.

The progression of activities within these cohorts can serve as a model for other teacher educators in preparing PSTs to use disciplinary CT.

  1. Developing an understanding of growth and fixed mindset at the beginning of the semester set the stage for participating in many CT activities that inherently needed attributes of curiosity and perseverance as PSTs solved problems (e.g., hour of code, inquiries, and City X).
  2. Collaborating with a local school in which elementary-aged children could share how to use robotics and makerspace tools had many benefits. The PSTs were able to see that children, although not experts, can understand how to use these tools. It also helped PSTs get started with CT practices and tools, in general, without the context of a specific discipline, making it a starting point for the instructor to build upon in methods classes.
  3. Explicitly introducing the TPACK and SAMR models helped the PSTs develop vocabulary and served as frameworks that they could use as we engaged in activities and discourse throughout the semester to process what they were learning as they developed professional dispositions.
  4. The robotics and makerspace inquiries, as well as the 3D printing and City X project, worked as the next steps toward making explicit connections with elementary mathematics and science curriculum.
  5. The PSTs were able to lead multiple stations at local STEM nights and train other PSTs from different sites with how to use these tools. In most cases these opportunities allowed children to practice CT as an isolated skill and allowed the PSTs to practice teaching.
  6. The PSTs cotaught a disciplinary CT-based robotics/makerspace lesson in schools. The instructor was able to coteach with each team and provide feedback on the spot, and in most cases the teams taught the lessons two to three times.

Finding additional resources in the community, such as the ORNL Manufacturing Demonstration Facility and Women in Computing roundtable, helped PSTs develop local connections and describe how these skills are used in future careers (fall 2019 cohort). Opportunities to attend conferences along with in-service teachers such as the STEM BOSS conference (fall 2018 cohort) and present at conferences (fall 2019 cohort) helped PSTs see how teaching is a lifelong process of professional growth and sets the stage for seeking PD opportunities in the future.

Conclusions

These methods courses intentionally advanced research on the use of CT within elementary mathematics and science classrooms by including the use of innovative cyber technologies (e.g., robotics, programming, and 3D printing) and by using interdisciplinary approaches in the classroom. Grover (2018) argued, “Like any skill, CT is best taught and learned in context, and embedded into class subjects.” Methods courses and instructional technology courses can each play a role in providing opportunities for PSTs to practice using, teaching, and reflecting upon disciplinary CT activities and practices. As PSTs increase their TPACK by developing content and pedagogical skills with the use of technology within specific contexts, they are better suited to identify the appropriate SAMR level to meet their instructional needs.

Next steps include collaborating with CS educators and integrating CT within other methods courses within our teacher education program (Yadav et al., 2011). This step would allow PSTs to have multiple exposure points for the use of CT within context and increase their chances of transfer to the classroom. Ching et al. (2018) suggested that as students collaborate instructors should look for teachable moments as PSTs make their CT knowledge visible. This approach presents an opportunity for methods instructors to illuminate CT-related discourse and, in turn, ask PSTs to observe academic language use and discourse by elementary children. Methods instructors need to help PSTs make explicit connections to TPACK, SAMR, and CT practices throughout each course through written and oral reflections.  

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Appendix A
Sample Student Artifacts


Appendix B
City X Activity


Appendix C
Example Lesson Plans and Reflections


Appendix D
Computational Thinking Survey

Multiple Choice Prompts (Rich et al., 2017)
(Strongly Disagree, Disagree, Neutral, Agree, Strongly Agree)

Teaching CT self-efficacy

  1. I can explain basic programming concepts to children (e.g., algorithms, loops, conditionals, functions).
  2. I know where to find the resources to help students learn to code.
  3. I can find applications for coding that are relevant for students.
  4. I can integrate coding into lessons I teach.
  5. I can help students debug their code.

Open-ended Prompts (Yadav et al., 2011)

  1. In your view, what is computational thinking?
  2. How can we integrate computational thinking in the classroom?
  3. How does computational thinking relate to other disciplines and fields? Please provide specific examples.

Rich, P. J., Jones, B., Belikov, O., Yoshikawa, E., & Perkins, M. (2017). Computing and engineering in elementary
school: The effect of year-long training on elementary teacher self-efficacy and beliefs about teaching
computing and engineering. International Journal of Computer Science Education in Schools, 1(1), 1-20.

Yadav, A., Zhou, N., Mayfield, C., Hambrusch, S., & Korb, J. T. (2011, March). Introducing computational thinking in education courses. In Proceedings of the 42nd ACM technical symposium on Computer science education (pp. 465-470).


Appendix E
Participant Views of CT Applications in the Classroom


Appendix F
Lesson Plan Rationales

Part 1 – Rationale for Tinkercad Lesson Plan

Rationale for 4th grade lesson Building Animal Habitats with Tinkercad

TPACK – Through this lesson, we have several components of the TPACK and SAMR Models integrated. A main one that is integrated is Technological Pedagogical Knowledge through the introduction of TinkerCAD and how to use it. We will have an introduction PowerPoint that will introduce TinkerCAD’s basic components and how to use them. We will also be using materials, such as, a Smartboard, to project this introductory slideshow. Technological Content Knowledge is also integrated through the use of a Smartboard, the class set of laptops, TinkerCAD, and a 3-D printer to teach the scientific content of animal habitats. Through the integration of these types of technology, students will be given an alternative way to learn about how certain habitats are suitable for certain animals. This could also be categorized as simply Technological Knowledge as well. Pedagogical Knowledge and Pedagogical Content Knowledge can also be found through the use of direct instruction in the introduction of TinkerCAD and how to use it. Also, throughout the entire lesson, we are integrating Inquiry-based instruction through the use of this computer program and a 3-D printer. Also, we will be using phenomenon to inspire student’s creativity of creating their animal and a suitable habitat.

SAMR –  Through this lesson, we are redefining ways students learn about the components of a certain habitat and their effect on animals that live there. Through the use of the program, TinkerCAD, it allows for creation of new tasks that previously would be inconceivable. For example, students will begin by brainstorming a habitat and its component for an animal they have chosen, and through the designing process in TinkerCAD, this learning can be created three-dimensionally. Students can actually physically see and hold their creations when printed on a 3D printer, and see how they work together to serve the purpose of a habitat.

CT in Math and Science Taxonomy:  Referring to the “computational thinking in mathematics and science taxonomy” chart, for Data Practices throughout this lesson, students will be visualizing and manipulating data by visualizing their habitat through pencil and paper, as well as, through technology. Students will manipulate data by changing and working with dimension limitations of their habitat. For modeling and simulation practices, students will be designing and constructing computational models by physically drawing out the part of the habitat that they will be creating, as well as, constructing their design through TinkerCAD. For Computational Problem Solving Practices, students will be developing modular computational solutions, by actually designing their habitat/or component of one in TinkerCAD. Also, students will be troubleshooting and debugging by the thinking-process of how components of the habitat are going to fit together and follow dimension limitations. For Systems Thinking Practices, students will be communicating information about a system by working in their groups and assigning components within their habitats. Also, students will be investigating a complex system as a whole by discussing how their components will all come together to make a suitable habitat for their assigned animal.

Part 2 – Rationale for Lego WeDo 2.0 Lesson Plan

Rationale for 4th grade lesson, Volcano Alert with Lego WeDo 2.0

TPACK: TPACK emphasizes the kinds of knowledge that lie at the intersections between three primary forms: Pedagogical Content Knowledge (PCK), Technological Content Knowledge (TCK), Technological Pedagogical Knowledge (TPK), and Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK). In our lesson we used technological content knowledge by showing knowledge of the legos and applying it to our science lesson. We used the legos to show how scientists are able to look at volcanoes and study them and their eruptions. We also used pedagogical content knowledge by implementing the 5e model, phenomena, and the SEP’s into our lesson. Our lesson went in through the phases to engage students, explore the task, explain the importance of the task, elaborate on why they did the task, and evaluated what the students took away. Our lesson plan also had real world phenomena by referencing an article about volcanoes in Hawaii. The lesson also was made using the Science and Engineering Practices. The lesson includes engaging in argument from evidence and using mathematical and computational thinking. The lesson also implemented technological pedagogical knowledge by having knowledge of using a technology enhanced learning environment.

SAMR: In our lesson we demonstrate augmentation by using technology as the direct tool. Originally students would have the building instructions on paper in front of them on paper. Using technology allows for students to have the building instructions step by step in front of them on the Ipad. This makes seeing the steps easier for the students. We also demonstrate modification by using robots. This is using the technology as a significant task redesign. So, Instead of replacement or enhancement, this is an actual change to the design of the lesson and its learning outcomes. The volcanic alarm robot is something that students would not otherwise get to experiment without the use of technology.

CT in Math and Science Taxonomy:

Modeling & Simulation Practices- My students are using computational models to understand a concept by using the ipads and robots to learn more about the standard they are working on. The model will show them how a volcano alert can be used to warn the citizens of the town of the nearby volcano.

Computational Problem Solving Practices- My students are using programming by having to set up the legos by the ipads’ apps instruction. They will also be using programming by coding to make their robot move accordingly. They will also be assessing different approaches/solutions to a problem by having to figure out the code to make the robot go back from the green light to the red, they are already given the code to make it go from red to green.


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