Integrating the Computer Science and Computational Thinking in Three Rural Eastern North Carolina School Districts
Rural youth and urban youth must be comparably well prepared to take their places on the global stage at both the high school graduate and higher education graduate levels. A large proportion of children are educated in rural school districts, in which district administrators may be challenged both to recruit and retain high quality teachers and to provide appropriate professional development for teachers. The interest and motivation for this project emerged from the rural school districts themselves, enhancing their stake in the future of their students, as opposed to imposing outside solutions. The project builds on the trust and relationships engendered by an existing Research Practitioner Partnership (RPP) to enable middle school students to benefit from the integration of specific computer science and computational skills into specific classes (art and music). The RPP will have the following objectives: (a) prepare and academically equip principals to lead the project, (b) prepare and academically equip teachers to integrate computer science and computational thinking into their subject content, (c) engage students in understanding the salience of computer science and computational thinking to their lives and careers, and (d) engage parents and caregivers in validating and sustaining the project. In order to attain these objectives, (a) principals will engage, on an approximately monthly basis, with ongoing professional development throughout the three years of the project that includes education, supervised practice, peer mentoring, and yearly 360-degree feedback on their learning-centered leadership, (b) teachers will similarly engage with ongoing professional development (both face-to-face and through completion of a massively open online course) and on-demand/continual instructional coaching throughout the school year, in addition to participating in approximately monthly ongoing guided peer review processes, (c) students' understanding of computer science and computational thinking will be solicited and reviewed on a regular ongoing basis, and (d) parents and caregivers will be empowered through Community Learning Exchanges to share with teachers and students the ways in which they utilize computer science and computational thinking on an ongoing basis.
The project will advance knowledge of how to introduce an educational innovation in rural school districts. Through a combination of ongoing education of principals, teachers, and parents, the project team will research and develop an approach to enhancing students' understanding of the salience of computer science and computational thinking to their lives and careers. The project will explore the overarching research question: To what extent can Computational Thinking (CT) and Computer Science (CS) principles be integrated by teachers and learned by students in non-core subject areas such as art and music? The project will assess students' understanding of CT/CS, conduct instructional rounds and tuning protocols with teachers to assess the teachers' implementation and effectiveness, assess principals' learning-centered leadership, and assess the perceptions of all students, teachers, principals, and parents/caregivers on the efficacy of the program using Q-methodology.