Positioning Youth for Success in Science: Studying the Malleability and Impact of Computational Thinking for Science

In collaboration with the Learning Design Group at the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Research Group is engaging in a three-year project (funded by NSF STEM+C #1838992) that will investigate computational thinking as both an input into and an outcome of science learning. After synthesizing a variety of frameworks and definitions of computational thinking (CT) to define the aspects of CT that best position youth specifically for learning science, we are testing whether this new construct, called computational thinking for science (CT-S), prepares youth from diverse backgrounds for achieving success with their science learning in technology-rich classrooms. We are specifically investigating whether CT-S is valuable above and beyond the previously identified dimensions of Science Learning Activation (that is: fascination, values, competency beliefs, and scientific sensemaking), each of which has been shown to enable success in science learning during the middle school years. We are also investigating the relationship between CT-S and the development of STEM career preferences. The study is situated within the Amplify Science Middle School curriculum, also developed by the Learning Design Group. The project includes measurement development, validity testing, and a one-year longitudinal study to explore how CT-S develops; how such development varies, based on the content domain in which it is emphasized; and which in-school and out-of-school experiences are most associated with increases in CT-S.