Designing a framework for teachers' integration of computational thinking into elementary science

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Cabrera, L., Ketelhut, D. J., Mills, K., Killen, H., Coenraad, M., Byrne, V. L., & Plane, J. D. (2023). Designing a framework for teachers' integration of computational thinking into elementary science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 1–36.


As professional science becomes increasingly computational, researchers and educators are advocating for the integration of computational thinking (CT) into science education. Researchers and policymakers have argued that CT learning opportunities should begin in elementary school and span across the K-12 grades. While researchers and policymakers have specified how students should engage in CT for science learning, the success of CT integration ultimately depends on how elementary teachers implement CT in their science lessons. This new demand for teachers who can integrate CT has created a need for effective conceptual tools that teacher educators and professional development designers can use to develop elementary teachers' understanding and operationalization of CT for their classrooms. However, existing frameworks for CT integration have limitations. Existing frameworks either overlook the elementary grades, conceptualize CT in isolation and not integrated into science, and/or have not been tested in teacher education contexts. After reviewing existing CT integration frameworks and detailing an important gap in the science teacher education literature, we present our framework for the integration of CT into elementary science education, with a special focus on how to use this framework with teachers. Situated within our design-based research study, we (a) explain the decision-making process of designing the framework; (b) describe the pedagogical affordances and challenges it provided as we implemented it with a cohort of pre- and in-service teachers; (c) provide suggestions for its use in teacher education contexts; and (d) theorize possible pathways to continue its refinement.