Discipline: Science and Mathematics Education
Room: Park Tower 8228
Beatriz Galarza Tohen - University of Texas at San Antonio
The hypothesis is that if we are able to engage Latinx students to understand computational thinking while in high school, they will be more likely to succeed and continue in the pipeline for STEM-related careers. The purpose is to find out if Problem-Based Learning (PBL) helps students from different cultures and ethnicities who interact in the same classroom understand computational thinking. The need for STEM professionals has been growing, the Cybersecurity Industry has a shortage of skilled professionals that is expected to reach 1.5 million unfilled positions. Previous research shows us that bringing diversity to the workforce will help diminish and ultimately eliminate the gap between professionals needed and students graduating from these areas. Computational thinking is a skill needed to succeed in Cybersecurity careers, it provides students with the fundaments they need to further understand higher technological subjects (Krauss & Prottsman, 2017). Method A case study analysis to explore PBL activities used to teach Computational Thinking was conducted using qualitative methods. Data collection included sixteen direct observations in a high school classroom with 23 students of Latinx population and one in-depth interview with the teacher. Data analysis was conducted using observation and interview transcripts to open code and compare. Analysis of artifacts and materials provided information on the efficacy of PBL in High School STEM classes. The purpose of the study was to observe if PBL in which students built mechanical hands from cardboard, string and wood pieces that elicited learning computational thinking. The interview with the teacher was conducted to understand the rationale and confirm the problem was purposefully chosen to elicit learning. Findings Recurring patterns of behavior, interactions between students and the relationships inside the classroom revealed students felt motivated and learned skills that would increase their likelihood of success in STEM career paths. When students were presented with a PBL activity such as designing mechanical hands, the process of learning Computational Thinking became palpable. The projects are meant for the students to learn every step of the design, analysis, and problem-solving. The class was inclusive and equitable for all students since the materials used are low-cost and the learning is relevant for all students. Conclusions PBL provides the perfect setting to learn computational thinking since the student is involved in the analysis and solution of the problem. Students went through all of the pillars of computational thinking. Everyone in the class had equal participation, student’s culture and previous knowledge were incorporated as they worked in the activity. This was a pilot study, part of a larger one that will incorporate Quantitative Ethnology. It will measure the interaction between subjects during qualitative research that will allow further research on the results.
Funder Acknowledgement(s): This study was supported by a grant from NSF (#1736209) awarded to UTSA Center for Security and Privacy Enhanced Cloud Computing (C-SPECC).
Faculty Advisor: Dr. Guadalupe Carmona, Guadalupe.Carmona@utsa.edu
Role: I conducted the study with the guidance of my advisor, Dr. Guadalupe Carmona.