Collaborative Research: Scaffolding Pre-service, Early Childhood Teachers to Debug Block-based Programming

Project: Research project

Project Details


Engaging early grades students with STEM content in an inquiry-oriented manner is challenging. One way in which this can be done is by having students participate with robots in dramatic play and other student-centered approaches to early childhood education. Programming, and, by consequence, debugging, is critical to the ability to control robot movements. It also contributes to the development of problem-solving skills. It is unreasonable to expect early grades students to gain these skills without being helped by a teacher who has the ability and self-efficacy to engage in debugging. In this three year, collaborative research project, this Improving Undergraduate STEM Education (IUSE) Exploration and Design project will prototype and research the effectiveness of strategies to help pre-service, early childhood education teachers learn to debug block-based programming. In so doing, the project has the potential to invite members of a population that is overwhelmingly female (early childhood education pre-service teachers) to participate in computer science, a field in which women are drastically under-represented. It also has the potential to positively influence the teaching of computer science in the early grades among students who are from low-resourced settings or from ethnic minority backgrounds - a very important goal for both social justice and ensuring the widest possible talent pool for the computer science workforce of the future. This aligns with the goals of NSF's IUSE program in that it seeks to enhance STEM education processes and outcomes among pre-service, early childhood teachers, who often suffer from weak STEM education preparation.

The specific project aims are (a) to determine the nature of the motivational and cognitive challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among pre-service early childhood teachers, and (b) match scaffolding techniques with specific learner characteristics to promote successful and efficient debugging among pre-service early childhood teachers. To address these aims, the project team will engage in 5 studies - (1) an exploratory study of cognitive and motivational challenges that impede successful and efficient debugging among pre-service early childhood teachers, (2) meta-synthesis of exploratory studies (including pilot studies prior to this project) and clusters of participants according to challenges, (3) data mining of a scaffolding meta-analysis dataset and prototyping scaffolding strategies, and (4-5) implementation studies of scaffolding prototypes. Furthermore, the project team will disseminate results to (a) university educators through workshops and webinars, and (b) STEM education researchers through publication of peer-reviewed journal articles. This important work is supported with funding from the IUSE program and the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship program.

Effective start/end date8/1/174/30/19


  • National Science Foundation: $136,725.00


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