Project Profile

Designing and Studying Collaborative Coding Experiences for Middle School Computer Science Education


Through a strategic partnership between Northwestern University and Evanston-Skokie District 65, this design and development project will investigate new approaches to student collaboration and problem-solving in computer science (CS) classrooms. A focus on creating collaborative coding experiences for youth is important because collaborative classroom interactions promote engaged thinking and learning. However, understanding of how to support effective collaboration structures in CS classrooms is limited by two factors. First, existing CS curricula tend to emphasize individual assignments and participation structures, while often actively discouraging collaboration and learning from peers. Second, classroom technologies such as iPads and Chromebooks are inherently single-user devices, making productive collaboration challenging in practice.

The project brings together teams of K-12 educators, computer scientists, learning scientists, and undergraduate students to develop technology and curriculum. The project will expand a novel learning platform called TunePad Playbooks that the team has been developing through prior support from the NSF. TunePad is a free, online platform that supports creative musical expression with Python programming. District teachers and university researchers will collaborate on curriculum design in summer workshops. The project team will also provide ongoing professional development support during the school year. The technology and the curriculum will be deployed in 5th through 8th grade classrooms across District 65 to include 11 schools and over 1,000 students a year. Additionally, the project team will recruit around 45 undergraduate volunteers each year who will work in classrooms with 20 CS teachers. Curriculum and technology produced through this work will be made publicly available for broad-scale adoption. To understand student collaboration and learning, the team will conduct mixed methods research with the following data and measures: pre- and post-surveys assessing students’ computing confidence, interest, utility and support; classroom observations; interviews with students and teachers; examples of student work; video of showcase performances; and assessments of student understanding of core CS concepts and practices. This project is funded by the Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) program, which supports projects that build understandings of practices, program elements, contexts and processes contributing to increasing students' knowledge and interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and information and communication technology (ICT) careers.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.


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Principal Investigator(s)


Award Number
Project Duration
2024 - 2027
Northwestern University
Project Status