Getting closer to “all” in #CSforAll: Instructional supports for students with disabilities in K-5 computing
I’ve been arguing for a while that we don’t know how to get to CS for All, because we don’t know how to teach “all” yet. This is what the Bootstrap group has been arguing from a STEM discipline and economics perspective (see blog post). I’ve also been concerned that we’re biased by the Inverse Lake Wobegone Effect and are assuming that the high-ability learners we’ve been teaching represent everyone.
Maya Israel is one of the few researchers who’s asking, “How do we teach computing to students with cognitive or learning disabilities in K-12?” Below is a link to her most recent study. Here, she’s looking at how we teach, what helps the students to engage in the computing activity. I talked with her about this paper — we still don’t know what the students are learning.
As computer programming and computational thinking (CT) become more integrated into K-12 instruction, content teachers and special educators need to understand how to provide instructional supports to a wide range of learners, including students with disabilities. This cross-case analysis study examined the supports that two students with disabilities, who were initially disengaged during computing activities, received during computing instruction. Data revealed that students’ support needs during computing activities were not CT-specific. Rather, supports specific to these students’ needs that were successful in other educational areas were also successful and sufficient in CT. Although additional studies would need to be conducted to ascertain the transferability of these findings to other contexts and students, our results contribute evidence that students with disabilities can and should participate in CT and be provided with the supports they need, just as in all other areas of the curriculum. We present a framework for evaluating student engagement to identify student-specific supports and, when needed, refine the emerging K-12 CT pedagogy to facilitate full participation of all students. We then offer a list of four implications for practice based on the findings.