National Science Foundation: Computer Science for All
A key goal of Computer Science for All is to provide all U.S. students the opportunity to participate in computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education in their schools at the preK-12 levels. CT refers to the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions in such a way that the solutions can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent (usually a computer). CT activities do not require the presence of a computing tool, but involve the requisite reasoning needed to capitalize on the use of computational tools. CS includes CT but also the broad range of understandings, competencies, and skills needed to apply computation in our digital world. It includes topics of problem specification and representation; algorithm development; software design, programming, and debugging; the Internet and networking; big data; cybersecurity; and application across a wide range of disciplines, including the associated societal impact and ethical considerations. This solicitation focuses on CS and CT instruction, as distinct from the mere use of computers or the use of common computational tools such as word processors or video editing or presentation software.
The Computer Science for All program supports researcher-practitioner partnerships (RPPs) with the goal of building knowledge from research and development to support efforts that aim to provide opportunities for all students to participate in CS and CT formal STEM learning at the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. RPPs aim to strengthen the capacity of an organization to produce valued CS and CT education outcomes for diverse groups of students, educated by different teachers in varied organizational contexts. The focus is on building efforts that can succeed when implemented at scale. These studies have less prescriptive research designs and methods, with research occurring in rapid, iterative, and context-expanding cycles. They require the deep engagement of researchers and practitioners during the collaborative research on problems of practice that are co-defined and of value to researchers and education agencies, such as a school district or community of schools. These types of projects seek to:
- Study implementation in the local context
- Employ rapid changes in implementation with short-cycle methods
- Capitalize on variation in educational contexts to address the sources of variability in outcomes to understand what works, for whom, and under what conditions
- Address organizational structures and processes and their relation to innovation
- Employ measurement of change ideas, key drivers, and outcomes to continuously test working theories and to learn whether specific changes actually produce improvement
- Reform the system in which the approach is being implemented as opposed to overlaying a specific approach on an existing system
Proposals can be submitted in one of the following three “strands” that foster design, implementation at scale, and research:
1. High school strand: the focus is on addressing key issues in the preparation, professional development (PD), and ongoing support of teachers of high school CS, recognizing the need for quickly scaling effective efforts to reach thousands of teachers. Additional issues include but are not limited to:
- Recruitment of teachers
- Differential PD based on prior experiences
- Creating robust PD materials for teachers and facilitators
- Establishing online and hybrid PD approaches
- Assessing the effectiveness of PD models with respect to content knowledge, pedagogy, classroom equity, and student outcomes
- Adapting and scaling PD models for greater impact, especially with respect to inclusion and equity
- Establishing certification programs and pre-service paths for teacher PD
- Undertaking studies to inform state or local policy about CS requirements
- Designing, piloting, and assessing scalable mechanisms for ongoing support of classroom teachers
2. PreK-8 strand: the focus is on designing, developing, and piloting instructional materials that integrate CS and CT into preK-8 classrooms, including the:
- Development and study of prototype instructional materials for preK-8 both for stand-alone CS and CT courses or modules as well as teaching and testing of CS and CT concepts with other content
- Creation of developmentally-appropriate learning progressions that underlie the design of instructional materials; design of classroom-based assessments to inform teaching and learning along the way
- Development of PD and teacher support—including face-to-face and online learning communities, coaching, and mentoring—as needed for piloting of instructional materials, along with research about their use and effectiveness
3. PreK-12 or preK-14 pathways strand: the focus is on designing pathways that support school districts in developing policies and supports for incorporating CS and CT across all grades and potentially into introductory levels at community or four-year colleges and universities, including:
- Research and development of school district course pathways and alignment tools for students for preK-12
- Research and development on articulation from preK-12 to community or four-year colleges in preparation for entry into university CS or computationally intensive majors
- Design and development of school, district, and/or state systems to assess and track student progress on pathways
Amount: A total of $20,000,000 is available to fund awards for the following size classes:
- Small proposals (maximum of $300,000 for up to 2 years) are designed to support the initial steps in establishing a strong and well-integrated RPP team that could successfully compete for a medium or large proposal in the near future. Up to 10 awards will be made.
- Medium proposals (maximum of $1,000,000 for up to 3 years) are designed to support the modest scaling of a promising approach by a well-defined RPP team. Up to 11 medium awards will be made.
- Large proposals (maximum of $2,000,000 for up to 4 years) are designed to support the widespread scaling of an evidence-based approach by a RPP team that builds on prior collaborations. Up to 3 large awards will be made.
Eligibility: Institutions of higher education; nonprofit, nonacademic organizations; for profit organizations; state and local governments; unaffiliated individuals (e.g. scientists, engineers, or educators in the US and US citizens); and foreign organizations, if there is a cooperative project involving U.S. and foreign organizations, provided support is requested only for the U.S. portion of the collaborative effort.
Proposals must come from RPPs, defined as “long-term, mutualistic collaborations between practitioners and researchers that are intentionally organized to investigate problems of practice and solutions for improving district (and school) outcomes.” RPPs require well-organized teams of academic researchers and preK-12 practitioners (teachers, administrators, and counselors), possibly augmented with other community, foundation, policy, and industry partners. Members of these teams work together to iteratively define and refine common goals, research questions, metrics, and implementations.
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