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Teacher implementation profiles for integrating computational thinking into elementary mathematics and science instruction


Incorporating computational thinking (CT) ideas into core subjects, such as mathematics and science, is one way of bringing early computer science (CS) education into elementary school. Minimal research has explored how teachers can translate their knowledge of CT into practice to create opportunities for their students to engage in CT during their math and science lessons. Such information can support the creation of quality professional development experiences for teachers. We analyzed how eight elementary teachers created opportunities for their students to engage in four CT practices (abstraction, decomposition, debugging, and patterns) during unplugged mathematics and science activities. We identified three strategies used by these teachers to create CT opportunities for their students: framing, prompting, and inviting reflection. Further, we grouped teachers into four profiles of implementation according to how they used these three strategies. We call the four profiles (1) presenting CT as general problem-solving strategies, (2) using CT to structure lessons, (3) highlighting CT through prompting, and (4) using CT to guide teacher planning. We discuss the implications of these results for professional development and student experiences.

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This work is supported by the National Science Foundation under grant number 1738677. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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Correspondence to Kathryn M. Rich.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. The study was reviewed and approved by the Institutional Review Board at the university at which the study was conducted. Informed consent was obtained from all teacher participants. No students were identified and no student data was analyzed.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Appendix 1

Appendix 1

Table 9 Narrative description of CT opportunities provided by each teacher

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Rich, K.M., Yadav, A. & Larimore, R.A. Teacher implementation profiles for integrating computational thinking into elementary mathematics and science instruction. Educ Inf Technol (2020).

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  • Computational thinking
  • Integration
  • Elementary school
  • STEM
  • Teacher education