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Computational reasoning grant

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UD Transformation Grant leads to successful NSF funding

University of Delaware faculty and administrators have been awarded a $300,000 “Improving Undergraduate STEM Education’’ grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore ways to incorporate computational reasoning into undergraduate courses at UD.

The grant, titled "Infusing Computational Thinking into General Education," was made to a team led by Lori Pollock, UD Alumni Distinguished Professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Pollock and her co-investigators seek to explore ways that computational reasoning can be incorporated into courses across the University curriculum.

Computational reasoning was adopted as a UD general education objective in November 2014. Because it includes a broad range of analytical tools from computer science that can be applied to problem-solving strategies in other fields, computational reasoning is an important addition to the University’s general education objectives.

“It’s no longer a skill just for computer scientists and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) specialists,” Pollock said. “This grant will help UD provide all our undergraduate students more opportunities to learn to think computationally within their major discipline of study.”

Pollock and grant co-investigators Chrystalla Mouza, associate professor, School of Education; Kathleen Langan Pusecker, interim director, Center for Teaching and Assessment of Learning (CTAL); and Kevin R. Guidry, senior research analyst, CTAL, will develop, pilot, and evaluate a model for infusing computational reasoning into undergraduate curricula across a variety of disciplines.

Their grant proposal included qualitative data from a pilot program in teacher education conducted by Mouza, Pollock and Zoubeida Dagher, professor, School of Education. This program was funded by a Transformation Grant from CTAL and IT Academic Technology Services (IT-ATS).

While working on the pilot program, the researchers realized that incorporating computational reasoning into an existing course’s learning objectives would often require a full course redesign. “That experience led us to develop our broader NSF grant proposal,” Mouza said.

The investigators plan to help UD faculty incorporate computational reasoning into their courses in many different disciplines.

Pollock and her co-investigators have begun working with Fred Hofstetter, professor, School of Education, and Daniel Stevens, associate professor, music theory, to include computational reasoning in the courses that they will teach this spring.

“Faculty will be assisted by undergraduate ‘CT Scholars’ who will provide faculty and their students with support similar to that provided by University Writing Fellows,” Pollock added.

The researchers will also work with Hofstetter and Stevens to apply and validate a new rubric developed in the style of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) Valid Assessment of Learning in Undergraduate Education (VALUE). According to Pusecker and Guidry, “That new rubric would be used to assess how well the computational reasoning portion of a course meets the UD General Education objective. If successful, we will then disseminate the rubric to the national AAC&U community."

“Given the national attention on developing computational reasoning skills in all students, our work at UD could serve as a model for promoting changes in general education curricula at academic institutions nationwide,” Pollock concluded.

Faculty members who wish to become involved with the project and students who want to be considered for employment as CT Scholars should both contact Pollock, the grant’s principal investigator, at pollock@udel.edu.

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