Center for College Access and Success, partners awarded $900K NSF grant

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for College Access and Success, in collaboration with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Educational Psychology, the Chicago Public Library and the Museum of Science and Industry, has been awarded a two-year, $898,564 grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant will fund the Assessing Computational Thinking in Maker Activities (ACTMA) exploratory project, which seeks to study computational thinking in makerspace activities aligned with physics curricula and build tools to assess aspects of computational thinking. Developed throughout the process is a teacher protocol for instruction to elicit computational thinking skills.

By creating a formative assessment that will expand the integration of computational thinking skills into both informal and formal learning spaces, ACTMA will complement the expansion of makerspaces throughout Chicago and the nation, and will legitimize the learning that occurs in these spaces.

“This grant builds on our history of innovative programs in inquiry-based education, while reflecting the growing interest in computational thinking and makerspaces,” said Dr. Wendy Stack, executive director of the Center for College Access and Success. “Because of the strengths of the partners involved, we are able to create structures that encourage creativity and adaptability in teachers and students.”

The ACTMA assessment will contribute to the bridge between formal and informal learning, and will be readily accessible to teachers. It will enable the development of learning activities to best introduce computational thinking to students in a variety of disciplines other than computer science, such as physics.

ACTMA addresses the current lack of a formative assessment that can evaluate student acquisition of computational thinking skills as well as guide the design of learning activities. The assessment will empower students to recognize what they are learning, how to document these skills, and how these skills can enhance further education and employment, particularly in the STEM fields.