Salt Lake City, Utah
June 23, 2018
June 23, 2018
July 27, 2018
Pre-College Engineering Education
Increasing interest in the utilization of robotics in K-12 STEM education has drawn significant research interest as well as curricula development activities. Prior studies have illustrated that the robotics framework offers a multitude of benefits for learners, e.g., transforming abstract content into concrete representations that are readily visualized; offering hands-on activity to support kinesthetic learning; promoting active learning; improving engagement in and excitement for learning; engendering intrinsic and extrinsic motivation; and enhancing the overall learning environment and achievement. Moreover, applications of robotics in K-12 STEM learning offer productive opportunities to examine, refine, and validate varied educational research paradigms, such as: cognitive apprenticeship, situated cognition, and collaborative and inquiry-based learning, among others. Nonetheless, despite its tremendous potential, robotics remains to be widely incorporated in K-12 STEM curricula. If we do not formally and systematically investigate the prerequisite knowledge, skills, and abilities that learners need to possess to successfully participate in robotics-based STEM lessons, then some learners may continue to hold misconceptions about the role of robotics in STEM education while others may experience stress and anxiety due to their lack of knowledge in robotics, causing them to be disinterested in robotics-based lessons. Unfortunately, such investigations remain to be pursued. Thus, in this paper, we examine the prerequisites for middle school students to participate in robotics-aided math and science lessons.
Our study emphasizes on the abilities of learners to engage in and perform computational thinking, a concept popularized by Jeannette Wing. The notion of computational thinking is broad and it has recently emerged as an important construct in K-12 education. The use of robotics can be a good tool to foster and assess learners’ computational thinking. Nonetheless, the notion of computational thinking may not fully encapsulate the varied knowledge, skills, and abilities that ought to be articulated as prerequisites for meaningful learning through robotics. To examine adequate prerequisites for robotics-based STEM learning, we conduct an extensive literature review and identify the key definitions, concepts, principles, characteristics, elements, and scope of computational thinking especially in the context of K-12 education. Next, we recruit over 20 middle school science and math teachers to participate in a multi-week professional development (PD) workshop wherein they learn to use and practice selected robotics-focused K-12 STEM lessons that had been previously developed. Based on the literature review, our experience, and brainstorming with the teachers, we develop two rubrics using Likert scales in terms of computational thinking and other required abilities and skills for robotics-based STEM learning. We collaborate with the workshop participants to use the first rubric to estimate the levels of computational thinking and other knowledge, skills, and abilities that the students should ideally possess for the chosen lessons. We treat these ideal requirements as the prerequisites for learners to participate in robotics-based lessons.
Following the PD, the teachers reach out to more than 300 students to teach them science and math using robotics in a classroom setting. For the classroom implementation of robotics-focused lessons, for a select group of students, the teachers and researchers use the second rubric to assess students’ current levels of computational thinking and other prerequisite knowledge, skills, and abilities. We also investigate how the students achieve such knowledge, abilities, and skills. We compare the results of this assessment with the ideal requirements to understand whether the selected students satisfy the prerequisites for participating in robotics-based lessons. The results of such an analysis inform the needs for additional instruction and scaffolds that should precede the robotics-based lesson for it to be successful. We then propose action plans that include required additional instruction, cognitive apprenticeship, scaffolding, etc., to help the students improve their computational thinking and other required skills and satisfy the prerequisites. We posit that such an approach can impart the benefit of robotics-based science and math lessons to students in a rational way while also enhancing their overall skills and abilities including computational thinking abilities.
Rahman, S. M., & Chacko, S. M., & Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2018, June), Fundamental: Determining Prerequisites for Middle School Students to Participate in Robotics-based STEM Lessons: A Computational Thinking Approach Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. https://peer.asee.org/30549
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