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Spatial STEM+C Profile


The Evaluation of a Model Spatial Thinking Curriculum for Building Computational Skills in Elementary Grades K-5

Overview:

The Evaluation of a Model Spatial Thinking Curriculum for Building Computational Skills in Elementary Grades K-5 project advances objectives of the STEM+Computing Partnership (STEM+C) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the integration of Computational Thinking and computation into STEM teaching and learning. The project will address a significant challenge in preparing elementary-aged children to enter the STEM workforce in coming decades: developing visuospatial and computational skills that underlie success in gatekeeping high school and college STEM courses. Visuospatial skills, those related to visual perception of the spatial relationships of objects, have been documented to vary by gender and may be influenced by socioeconomic factors. By developing instructional and assessment strategies that are effective across socioeconomic categories and work particularly well for subcategories of students who have been found to lag behind in visuospatial abilities at key grade levels, this project will apply educational justice theory to help children achieve equal access to quality instruction, resources, and other educational opportunities.

The goal of the Evaluation of a Model Spatial Thinking Curriculum for Building Computational Skills in Elementary Grades K-5 project is to iteratively develop and evaluate supplemental instructional activities that build early computational skills in elementary-aged children. The project will accomplish this goal by improving childrens' innate capacities for spatial thinking. Iterative development of the curriculum over a two-year period will be complemented with a comparison group study of spatial and Computational Thinking development and achievement. Formative evaluation conclusions from the curriculum development process and research findings from the comparison group study will be used to refine the activities into a format that can be integrated into formal instruction at a partnering school district, disseminated and evaluated nationally, and built into in-service and pre-service teacher education programs beginning with the program at the University of Redlands in California. An e-book containing the curriculum will be made freely available.