STEM & STEAM Education

Researchers Developing Tools to Teach CS to English Learners

Researchers at the University of California, Irvine are launching a program to develop computational curriculum that focuses on the needs of English language learners. School of Education Professor Mark Warschauer has won a $4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, to study how to improve the teaching of computational thinking to culturally and linguistically diverse students in U.S. public schools. The grant lasts for five years. Warschauer is a professor of education and informatics who runs the university's Digital Learning Lab.

Warschauer's research team will target fourth grade Hispanic students in three school districts: the Santa Ana Unified School District, San Francisco Unified School District and Chicago Public Schools. The project will involve development and assessment of CS curriculum and professional development. In year one, the "intervention" will be developed. In years two and three, the focus will be on pilot testing and revisions. In year four a randomized control trial will take place. And year five will feature analysis and further improvement of the intervention, along with dissemination of the resources. Over the course of the five years, the researchers expect to have direct contact with at least 4,000 students.

"The field of computer science has been a field that has not been equally accessible to all learners. This is one of the first programs in the [United States] that is developing computational curriculum to focus on the needs of English Learners," Warschauer said in a statement. "It is our intention to transform the teaching of computer science in Santa Ana and beyond. As a result of this grant, every fourth-grade teacher in Santa Ana will have received training in teaching computational thinking, with a focus on the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse learners. We expect that our work on this grant will eventually lead to expansion of computational curriculum for grades five and beyond, with national impact."

The latest work builds on a previous project undertaken at the university. Collaborative Network of Educators for Computational Thinking for All Research (CONECTAR), funded by the National Science Foundation, promoted computational thinking for all students in grade 4 in the Santa Ana school system, with scaffolding for non-native English speakers.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.