A Case Study of a Researcher-Practitioner Partnership in Teaching STEM+C to Rural Elementary Students

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Stephanie D. C. Playton
Rebecca Hite
Paula K. Leach


Both computer science (CS) knowledge and workforce readiness skills (e.g., creativity, communication, collaboration, and critical thinking) have equally grown in national importance to fill the growing pipeline of CS careers. Various factors have contributed to CS job shortages, which include a lack of student instruction on, engagement with, interest in and awareness of CS and careers. Rural students, an underrepresented group, lack access to CS content and pedagogies (inquiry-based instruction) that facilitate knowledge, skills, and affect towards CS. Some states are addressing the lack of CS and workforce readiness skills through new policies integrating workforce readiness skills and CS standards into formal education, starting in elementary school. The change in policy to integrate CS into elementary education fostered a researcher-practitioner partnership between researchers and three teachers. A single illustrative case study investigated how 18 contact hours of a three-unit inquiry-based integrated Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics with computer science (STEM+C) curriculum augmented 34 rural fourth-grade (10 year old) students’ engagement with, interests and attitudes in STEM+C and increased their knowledge of CS careers and use of workforce readiness skills. Analyses indicated significantly positive gains in interests and attitudes in science for all students, with the greatest improvement for girls. High levels of engagement were observed and self-reported for all students, but workforce readiness skills varied across the learning units. Results suggest that inquiry-based learning opportunities that integrate STEM with CS can support primary level students’ interests and attitudes in STEM and foster workforce ready skills among geographically underrepresented students.

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Research / Empirical