The Assessing Computation Thinking in Making Activities (ACTMA) project aims to create embedded, adaptive, and culturally unbiased activities and formative assessments of computational thinking (CT) in STEM that can be used in informal learning spaces such as makerspaces, but can also be brought into more formal physics classroom experiences. Our 2-week summer program will bring 20 students together to pilot our activities and assessments created thus far in the project. Makerspaces are informal community workspaces where people can congregate to create and innovate. Students are provided with the time and space in which to work, and they have permission to be creative and possibly fail. Makerspaces are excellent environments for demonstrating the versatility of CT. Although makerspaces can contribute to all kinds of “making,” the focus of this project is on computational making. ACTMA addresses the current lack of a formative assessment that can evaluate student acquisition of CT skills as well as guide the design of learning activities.
To develop the formative assessment for makerspace mentors and physics teachers to use with high school students, the project’s Assessment Development Team (defined in Section E) will conduct in-depth observations of students who attend the CPL/YOUmedia makerspaces as a drop-in center. Aggregating the data from these observations, the project will identify and achieve the following goals:
(1) generate key CT constructs that can be highlighted and applied in makerspace activities (with a focus on constructs identified by the CT-STEM assessment developed by Weintrop et al., 2014)
(2) identify meaningful points in the makerspace activities where students demonstrate CT skills
(3) identify points at which a mentor in the makerspace can use probes to elicit CT or assess whether CT is happening
(4) develop types of instruction needed to guide students based on the results of their activity and probes.
The computational making activities will vary both in content and complexity, which will allow the project team to demonstrate transfer and identify learning progression. The first year of the project will be the primary investigation phase and will begin by tracking student activities (6-12 students). The team will code its observations based on the four items listed above to form the basis of the formative assessment design. The observations will be followed by interviews with focus groups of mentors and students. Instructional guides for dissemination will be developed based on these studies. The guides will help systematize the instruction by creating articulated protocols that provide a framework for the future development and implementation of an assessment of CT skills that scales to other informal and formal instructional settings. In the second year, the team will implement a proof of concept with two groups of 10-15 students, analyze the data, and use the results to revise the assessment and the instructional guide.