Computing in K-12 STEM

A Critical Phenomenological Approach

Our research on computational thinking in K-12 STEM education is grounded in a critical phenomenological approach (Sengupta, Dickes & Farris, 2021). A detailed view can be found in our recently published, open access book, Voicing Code in STEM: A Dialogical Imagination (MIT Press). The phenomenological dimension refocuses attention on the fundamentally complex nature of human experiences that are involved in coding and learning to code. The critical dimension involves learning to recognize voices that historically have received less attention, erased and/or silenced in disciplinary spaces. Fundamental commitments of our work are recognizing the complexity of praxis and labor in educational spaces, as well as centering voices from the margins. Our approach stands in contrast to the more prevalent technocentric approaches (Papert, 1987), where all questions about and "measures" of the experience of computing are reduced to the production of technological artifacts (see Chapter 1 of Voicing Code for a detailed view). Our work is empirically grounded in working with teachers and students in K-12 classrooms since 2004, and more recently (since 2015), in informal and public spaces.

Critical Phenomenology of Code and Complexity

  1. Sengupta, P., Dickes, A., & Farris, A. V. (2021). Voicing code in STEM: A dialogical imagination. MIT Press. (OPEN ACCESS; please click on the link).

In a few words: This book offers "computational heterogeneity" as a critical phenomenological lens for computing education, as well as for integrating computing in STEM disciplines in the K-12 setting. The theoretical framework builds on Bakhtin's notion of heteroglossia, and empirical chapters offer different "framings" of computing as experience.]

  1. Sengupta, P. (2021). Towards Racially Equitable Computing Education. In: Leonard et al. (Eds), Fostering computational thinking among underrepresented students in STEM: Strategies for supporting racially equitable computing. Routledge.

In a few words: This chapter is an invited Foreword to a wonderful edited volume by Black computing education scholars in the US, led by Dr. Jacqueline Leonard. In this chapter, I (Pratim) offer the argument that Computing Education is deeply entrenched in the White Gaze, and position the authors' contributions in the book as necessary resistances for thwarting the White Gaze in computing education, especially in the context of working with Black, Indigenous and Immigrant children.

  1. Sengupta, P., Chokshi, A., Ozacar, B.H., Dutta, S., Sanyal, M. & Shanahan, M.-C. (Accepted with minor revisions). Language and Symbolic Violence in Computational Models of Ethnocentrism: A Critical Phenomenology and Southern Re-Orientations. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education. [Pdf to be posted soon, along with acknowledgements of significant editorial work]

Abstract: Viewing code as heterogeneous language we offer an investigation of the relationship between language and symbolic violence in computational models of sociopolitical phenomena such as segregation and ethnocentrism. We offer a critical phenomenological account of how the transparency and ambiguity inherent in computational models of ethnocentrism embody and enact symbolic power and violence through assumptions of docility and omissions of marginalized voices and experiences. Centering voices of immigrants of color and Dalit scholars from the Global South, we present an empirical vignette as well as theoretical arguments that illustrate experiences of pain, oppression and erasure that underlie experiences of migration and urban segregation. Our work argues for a fundamental axiological re-orientation of computational ontologies toward Southern perspectives, an imminent call for the fields of computing and computing education.

  1. Sengupta, P. (2020). Re-orienting design: An unbearable pain. Invited talk at the International Conference of the Learning Sciences, 2020.

In a few words: This is an invited lecture at ICLS 2020, in which I (Pratim) seek to "dismantle the monuments in our discipline that have, since its inception, throttled anger and mourning and enabled subjugation of Black, Indigenous and People of Color everywhere". I argued for taking on disciplinarily enacted forms of symbolic violence that Learning Sciences has essentially been complicit in, and a fundamental turn toward acknowledging and centering the roles that racialized emotions (Bonilla-Silva, 2019) play in life and education.

"Big-picture" papers on Phenomenological views of Computing

  1. Sengupta, P., Dickes, A., & Farris, A. (2018). Toward a Phenomenology of Computational Thinking in STEM Education. In: Khine, M.S. (Ed.): Computational Thinking in STEM: Foundations and Research Highlights. Download

  2. Sengupta, P., Dickes, A.C., Farris, A.V., Karan, A., Martin, K., & Wright, M. (2015). Programming in K12 Science Classrooms. Communications of the ACM. Download

  3. Sengupta, P., Kinnebrew, J. S., Basu, S., Biswas, G., & Clark, D. (2013). Integrating computational thinking with K-12 science education using agent-based computation: A theoretical framework. Education and Information Technologies, 18(2), 351-380. Download

Empirical Studies of Computing in STEM

Note: Each of these studies proposes a "metaphor" for computational thinking, grounded in how the students and teachers make sense of and experience computation as part of the STEM classrooms and disciplinary contexts. Papers on teacher education and foregrounding teacher voice are marked #teachervoice.

Computational Thinking as Learning to Interpret Measurement and Motion

Farris, A., Dickes, A. C., & Sengupta, P. (2019). Learning to Interpret Measurement and Motion in Fourth Grade Computational Modeling. Science and Education, 28(8), 927-956. Download

Computational Thinking as Mechanistic Reasoning

Dickes, A. C., Sengupta, P., Farris, A. V., & Basu, S. (2016). Development of Mechanistic Reasoning and Multilevel Explanations of Ecology in Third Grade Using Agent‐Based Models. Science Education, 100(4), 734-776. Download

Computational Thinking as Epistemological Play

Sengupta, P., Kim, B., & Shanahan, M-.C. (2019). Playfully Coding Science: Views from Preservice Science Teacher Education. In: Sengupta, P., Kim, B., & Shanahan, M-.C. (Eds.). Critical, Transdisciplinary and Embodied Approaches in STEM Education. (pp 177 - 195). Springer. [LINK COMING SOON] #teachervoice

Computational Thinking as Perspectival Reasoning

Farris, A.V., & Sengupta, P. (2014). Perspectival Computational Thinking for Learning Physics: A Case Study of Collaborative Agent-based Modeling. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference of the Learning Sciences. (ICLS 2014), pp 1102 - 1107. Download

Computational Thinking as Designing for Others

Sengupta, P., Krishnan, G., Wright, M., & Ghassoul, C. (2015). Mathematical Machines & Integrated STEM: An Intersubjective Constructionist Approach. Communications in Computer and Information Science, Vol. 510, 272-288. Download

Computational Thinking in Conversations about Race

Hostetler, A., Sengupta, P., & Hollett, T. (2018). Unsilencing critical conversations in social-studies teacher education using agent-based modeling. Cognition and Instruction, 36(2), 139-170. Download #teachervoice

Computational Thinking as Aesthetic Experience

Farris, A. V., & Sengupta, P. (2016). Democratizing children's computation: Learning computational science as aesthetic experience. Educational Theory, 66(1-2), 279-296. Download

Computational Thinking as Disciplined Interpretations

Farris, A.V., Dickes, A.C., & Sengupta, P. (2016). Development of Disciplined Interpretation Using Computational Modeling in the Elementary Science Classroom. In: Proceedings of the 12th International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS 2016), pp 282 – 289. Download

Computational Thinking as Mathematizing

Sengupta, P., Brown, B., Rushton, K., & Shanahan, M. C. (2018). Reframing coding as “Mathematization” in the K12 classroom: Views from teacher professional learning. Alberta Science Educational Journal, 45(2), 28-36. Download #teachervoice

Computational Thinking as Revoicing, Bridging and Stuttering Across Spaces

Van Eaton, G., Clark, D. B., & Sengupta, P. (2018). Revoicing, Bridging, and Stuttering Across Formal, Physical, and Virtual Spaces. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations, 10(2), 21-46. Download #teachervoice

Computational Thinking using SocioMathematical Norms

Dickes, A.C., Farris, A.V., & Sengupta, P. (2016). Integrating Agent-based Programming with Elementary Science: The Role of Sociomathematical Norms. In: Proceedings of the 24th International Conference on Computers in Education, pp 129 - 138. Download #teachervoice

Computational Thinking as Boundary Play in Public

Sengupta, P. & Shanahan, M.-C. (2017). Boundary Play and Pivots in Public Computation: New Directions in STEM Education. International Journal of Engineering Education, Vol. 33 (3), pp. 1124–1134. Download

Computational Thinking as Playing Modeling Games

Krinks, K. D., Sengupta, P., & Clark, D. B. (2019). Modeling Games in the K-12 Science Classroom. International Journal of Gaming and Computer-Mediated Simulations (IJGCMS), 11(1), 31-50. Download #teachervoice