story by Claire Miller
When he first received grant funding from the National Science Foundation for a STEM-related after-school project, Assistant Professor Patrick Enderle planned to find pre-service teachers in math and science education programs at Georgia State to participate.
But he found that pre-service teachers across the CEHD’s teacher education programs wanted to be part of the project, which was created to teach them about multicultural education and culturally-relevant teaching practices through instruction focused on computational thinking.
Since 2016, CEHD pre-service teachers have designed and led after-school activities with Latinx middle schoolers in DeKalb County, Ga., thanks to Enderle’s partnership with the Latin American Association in Atlanta. These lessons centered on computational thinking, or translating everyday problems into a language a computer can understand.
CEHD pre-service teachers learned the basics of computational thinking from the project team, including Enderle; Rouhollah Aghasaleh, a postdoctoral researcher; Ying Zhu, a Georgia State associate professor and computer scientist; and Renesha Hendrix, a Georgia State computer science doctoral student. These pre-service teachers also discussed their teaching experiences – and how to create culturally-relevant lessons for Latinx middle school students – in a weekly methods class on campus.
“We want to help our pre-service teachers understand the issues students in underserved communities face, make their teaching practices more inclusive and discuss the best ways to engage middle school students in computational thinking,” Enderle said.
Over the course of the project, Enderle and Aghasaleh have found that middle school participants show greater interest in activities that include a hands-on component than those solely completed on a computer. In addition, the after-school program gives middle schoolers a place outside of their everyday classes to explore their interest in STEM subjects.
“We’re sending a message to these students that they can do computational thinking activities successfully and can go to college to study STEM areas,” Aghasaleh said.
The setting also benefits the CEHD pre-service teachers, who can hone their teaching skills in a more flexible and accessible space than a formal student teaching assignment.
“Pre-service teachers felt they had more autonomy and were more comfortable trying out new ways of teaching when they were outside of a traditional classroom setting,” Enderle explained.