Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Level of Access

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master's of Science in Teaching (MST)

Department

Science and Mathematics Education

Advisor

Sara Lindsay

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Hufnagel

Third Committee Member

Susan McKay

Abstract

The Maine Center for Research in STEM Education (RiSE Center) is currently developing a partnership between university education researchers, computer science faculty, and middle school science teachers throughout the state. The goal of this partnership is to develop a set of lessons that integrate computer science concepts and practices into existing science curricular materials. This STEM+C partnership brings together individuals who have a wide range of experience and comfort with computer science and teaching middle school. This study focuses on the partnership’s early stages through its initial summer collaborations. We designed and administered interviews prior to the module design process to gather information about participants’ initial impressions of collaboration, computer science, the overall project, and their role in the partnership. Using grounded theory techniques (Charmaz, 2006), we categorized these preliminary responses and used information about the respondents to predict where boundaries might arise during collaboration of the larger partnership.

Preliminary analysis of interview transcripts revealed differences in how individuals in the partnership spoke about aspects of the project including science teaching and computer science. We examined these potential misalignments in communication among members of different subgroups in the partnership. Such misalignments constituted group boundaries (Akkerman and Bakker, 2011), where communication may be difficult or misconstrued by either party and where strategies may be needed to facilitate communication. Based on prior research, we predicted boundaries between university researchers and K-12 practitioners (Robinson and Darling-Hammond, 1994). In addition, we anticipated that participants who were computer science novices might have conflicting definitions of computer science, as suggested by Winitzky, Stoddart, and O’Keefe (1992) and Barr and Stephenson (2011). We anticipated that school district affiliates who served on planning committees for the project may act as boundary spanners who ease communication across the researcher-practitioner boundary, because they work more closely with university affiliates than the participants not involved in the planning process. Differences in interview responses, as well as changes in computer science definitions, revealed that a boundary may exist between participants who were involved in planning the collaboration, regardless of affiliation, and those who were not. The difference may be based on access to information about the project as a whole as well as details of the planning team’s efforts to define computer science for themselves before bringing the concept to the summer collaboration process. These findings suggest the need for clear communication protocols throughout the formation process of any such partnership, as well as explicit role definition for those designated to communicate information across a boundary.

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