ACSHF Forum: Chikondi Sepula & Blessings Hwaca

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host Chikondi Sepula & Blessings Hwaca from Rhodes University at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum.

There will be two presentations from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday October 16 via Zoom from Grahamstown, South Africa.

Title: Exploring the Development of Computational Thinking Skills among Pre-Service Teachers through Visual Programming: An Interventionist Case Study
Due to its profound cognitive effect on learners, computational thinking (CT) has gained significant attention and has been increasingly integrated into primary and secondary education worldwide. The integration of CT into educational curricula offers several benefits, including improved learning outcomes, enhanced problem-solving abilities, and the development of skills necessary for the digital landscape of the 21st century. Reflecting this global trend, South Africa introduced CT in primary schools through a dedicated subject called “coding and robotics” in 2023. However, as cited in other contexts, teacher upskilling is a primary challenge faced in successfully integrating CT in South Africa. Many teachers lack the necessary skills to effectively teach this new subject. Recognizing this gap, I was motivated to explore the development of CT skills with pre-service teachers using visual programming. This study will be underpinned by the social-cultural theory (SCT) of Lev Vygotsky. Informed by this theory, the intervention will be guided by a professional development (PD) model called “Code, Connect, Create” and a pedagogical model known as “Use, Modify, Create”. The study will be carried out within the Education Department at Rhodes University. All first-year pre-service teachers who are willing to participate from within the department will be included in the intervention. Data will be collected through the CT Reflective tools, semi-structured interviews, focus-group discussions, and reflective journals. The CT framework proposed by Brennan & Resnick (2012) will be used as a lens to facilitate and assess CT development among the pre-service teachers as a result of the intervention. An evaluative interpretivist case study methodology will be employed in this study, as it allows the detailing of contextual effects of the visual programming approach, as well as enabling and constraining factors that should be considered when developing CT with visual programming.

Title: Working with Secondary School Educators’ on the development of Computational Thinking through lesson planning

Computational Thinking (CT) is a cognitive skill that helps learners to think logically and creatively, becoming more popular as well as necessary at all levels of education globally. By introducing CT into curriculum design and lesson activities, educators together with their learners can benefit in many ways such as effective problem-solving, better learning outcomes, and more holistic preparation for the digital challenges of the 21st century. Two of the obstacles cited in South African STEM Education are the lack of skilled teachers and low interest of learners in the former, which warrants the need for more support and focus from different actors. Since CT is not only for STEM subjects but also for any discipline or challenge, thus educators who understand computational thinking can help students use their skills in different situations and contexts and encourage them to think logically and systematically. As a scholar, I am inspired to investigate how we can promote the development of CT during lesson planning by selected secondary school educators. The intervention study will be carried out with ten educators in Makhanda, Eastern Cape province. The Pattern Recognition, Abstraction, Decomposition, and Algorithms (PRADA) and Vygotsky Social Cultural theory will be used as theoretical frameworks. The data will be collected through Workshops, Journal reflection, Interviews, and Focus Group discussions.

Hungwe Awarded Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship

We are excited to announce that Kedmon Hungwe, a professor in the Department of Cognitive & Learning Sciences, has been awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program. Professor Hungwe will be collaborating with Rhodes University and Dr. Clement Simuja on the project “Co-Developing and Designing a Digital Literacy Curriculum for Pre-Service Teachers in a Developing Country University” in South Africa.

The project will focus on designing and developing a digital literacy curriculum for pre-service teachers based on South Africa’s Department of Basic Education Digital Learning Framework and the UNESCO global framework. The project will run for 90 days during the summer of 2023 and will include curriculum co-development, research collaboration, and graduate student teaching and mentoring.

The Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program provides funding and structure for African-born academics at accredited higher education institutions in the United States and Canada to collaborate with colleagues at accredited higher education African institutions on capacity-building projects. The program is designed to strengthen capacity at host institutions and develop long-term, mutually beneficial collaborations between universities in Africa and the United States and Canada. The fellowship is funded by Carnegie Corporation of New York and managed by the Institute of International Education in collaboration with the Association of African Universities.

This project is a great opportunity for Professor Hungwe to use his expertise and knowledge in STEM Education to help develop a curriculum that will benefit pre-service teachers in South Africa. We wish Professor Hungwe all the best on this exciting venture and look forward to hearing about the outcomes of this project.

See a full list of newly selected projects, hosts and scholars.

ACSHF Forum: Grad Student Presentations

The Department of Cognitive and Learning Sciences will host ACSHF students Lisa Casper and Betsy Lehman at the next Applied Cognitive Science and Human Factors forum Monday (October 17) from 2:00pm to 3:00pm in Meese 109 and via Zoom.

Lisa Casper will present her research titled “Does Design Thinking Support Innovation: Empirical Evaluation

Abstract: Design thinking (DT) is a tool to support team innovation however, few empirical studies have examined it. In this study, we experimentally compared the effect of two approaches for DT ideate brainstorming on the number of ideas generated and the perceived innovativeness of those ideas.  As part of a semester-long DT project, 145 participants comprising 48 teams were challenged to develop an innovative solution for one of 17 United Nations sustainability goals (https://sdgs.un.org/goals).  Half of the teams engaged in a standard DT brainstorming ideation process, while the other half participated in an experimental brainstorming condition. Participants generated ideas and provided subjective ratings of the process and their team’s solution. Ideas were content-coded on several dimensions by two independent raters.  We found that teams in the DT experimental brainstorming techniques condition generated almost 58% more ideas than those in the DT baseline condition in the same amount of time, but their ideas were not rated as more innovative. What these data suggest for innovation and conducting research on innovation will be discussed.

Betsy Lehman will present her research titled Counterfactual Thinking as a Strategy for Questioning a Frame: Experimental Results

Abstract: Understanding how people make sense of situations and question the theories they hold may be critical in many circumstances, from communicating about climate change to improving DEI at work. Questioning a perspective is assumed to be a precursor to changing it (Klein et al., 2007), yet the research on the questioning process is limited. In a previous study, we found that factors involved in counterfactual thinking (Roese & Olson, 1995), mutability of the situation and ease of generating counterfactuals, appeared highly relevant in the sensemaking process. In the present experiment, we tested this effect by manipulating ease of generation and a mutability focus strategy. This research focuses on understanding the mechanisms of perspective shifting to support applications such as programs to reduce implicit bias.

After School Science and Engineering Classes for Grades 1-8

After School Science

There will be six sessions of after school science and engineering classes for grades 1-8 from Jan. 23 to March 3. The sessions will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in Room 104 of the Great Lakes Research Center. To register, click the link above or wupcenter.  These sessions offer hands-on explorations taught by Michigan Tech science and engineering students. Cost is $75 per student. Register by Friday, Jan. 20. Pay by credit card by calling the Michigan Tech Cashier at 7-2247. Your space is not reserved until payment has been received.

Questions? Call 7-3341 or email Joan Chadde.

Note: Houghton school bus will drop off students at Michigan Tech by 3:50 p.m.

Class Offerings:

Gr. 1-2 Transportation and Engineering:Mondays

Students will design candy cars, a bridge to hold the most weight, a boat that floats, a brain helmet that survives a crash, planes, trains and more.

Gr. 3-5 Geology Playgrounds: Wednesdays

Beaches, waterfalls, lakes, sledding hills — discover how some of these favorite places to play were formed. Each week, we will explore different geologic activities which have created cool features and shaped our home — the Keweenaw Peninsula.

Gr. 6-8 Fascinating Plants:Thursday

Explore the amazing world of plants — visit a research greenhouse, conduct experiments on effects of road salt and acid rain, design a water treatment system using plants, try to make sugar like a plant, meet a botanist and find out how forest plant materials can replace plastics and provide medicine and food.

Coordinated by Michigan Tech Center for Science and Environmental Outreach.