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Integrating Computation in Science Across Michigan


This project is supported by the STEM+Computing (STEM+C) program, which advances applied research integrating computational thinking and computing activities within disciplinary science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12). This project integrates computation into high school physics courses. The proposed work aims to rectify the mismatch between what is needed to engage students in 21st century physics and what is taught presently in high school physics classrooms. By working with and supporting physics teachers to integrate computation into their classrooms in authentic and equitable ways, this project aims to address this challenge. A detailed research plan that uses several lenses to investigate student learning and participation as well as how teachers design and adapt their instruction in computation will build on the collective understanding of the importance of, and methods for, integrating computation into the high school physics curriculum. A central aspect of this work is broadening participation in computation to students from historically marginalized groups, and studying how teaching practices can lead to more equitable participation in computation. The results of this research will be transferable to other institutions and could catalyze wider-spread adoption of computational instruction, including evidence-based activities and teaching practices, in high schools across Michigan and the US.
The project is a research-practice partnership between university researchers in science education, curriculum developers and researchers in physics, and high school physics teachers in Michigan. The researchers are committed to integrating computation in high school physics and studying its effects in classrooms on learning, practice, and equity. The research plan involves two components: (1) a professional development program that equips high school physics faculty to engage their students in computation and (2) a comprehensive research effort that studies the effects of integrating computation in these classrooms using three mutually-enhancing strands: (1) Student Understanding, (2) Instructional Practice, and (3) Equitable Participation. The professional development program for participating teachers consists of two components: (1) an immersive, hands-on summer workshop and (2) sustained post-workshop support. In the summer prior to the new school year, teams of teachers from participating schools will be invited to a 5-day workshop in which they work together on computational physics projects that they will implement in the classrooms while learning to use a set of high-leverage instructional practices that enables students to participate in authentic ways. During the subsequent school year, teachers will be invited back for monthly, one-day mini-workshops to reflect on their computational physics instructional experiences, to ask questions and inquire about additional support, to bring problems of practice in for discussion, and to perform additional development with the support of the research team. Through this professional development program, teachers will 1) develop expertise in the use of computational physics to model physical systems that are appropriate for the high school level; 2) engage in high leverage practices that encourage students' authentic engagement in the computational enterprise; and 3) analyze issues of equity integral to their computational teaching practice. Through this professional development program, the project will support at least 36 teachers in the mid-Michigan area to integrate computation into their physics courses, thus, impacting over 1000 students.