The Effects of Community Partnerships on K-12 Computer Science Education
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Computer Science and Software Engineering
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Technology is a critical component of the American economy. Analysts have claimed it is imperative that the United States maintain its status as a worldwide leader in technology or its economy, standard of living, and security are in jeopardy. Yet every year, more technology jobs are created than can be filled by qualified college graduates. A dramatic increase in computer science workers is needed to keep pace with employer needs. Massive challenges face America’s computer science education system. At the K-12 level, many teachers are underqualified to teach technology subjects. Many computer science teachers have backgrounds in non-technical subjects and are often forced to start teaching computer science to keep their jobs. Teachers reported being overwhelmed with student needs and they therefore lack the time required to fine-tune their course curriculum. Despite the wealth of resources that exist to help people learn computer science, teachers report very few resources exist that focus on how to effectively teach computer science. Additionally, computer science teachers in Utah describe existing computer science course curriculum as being outdated, unengaging, and uninteresting to students. Particularly, teachers described Utah’s Exploring Computer Science (ECS) I course curriculum as boring and lackluster. To help K-12 computer science teachers in Utah, we created a partnership with the State Board of Education, administrators and faculty from St. Owensby College, and Utah high school teachers. Through this partnership, we created a series of alternate lesson plans for Utah’s ECS I course. These lesson plans focus on active learning and engagement of students through problems and projects. After the fall 2018 semester, we administered a survey to the 38 registered users of the portal, seeking feedback on the effectiveness of the portal and the curriculum enhancements. We conducted in-person interviews with six teachers to collect qualitative data regarding the curriculum and portal. Feedback from teachers was extremely positive toward both the portal and the curriculum. Teachers found the portal helpful and easy to navigate and the curriculum engaging and interesting to students. Yet problems such as lack of knowledge-sharing, persistent computer science self-efficacy concerns, and the need for more in-depth training persist.