Change display time — Currently: Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) (Event time)

Peer-Coaching for Computer Science Integration Using Storytelling

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 125

Listen and learn: Ed talk
Streaming Session
Recorded Session
Save to My Favorites


Curriculum Lead
Faculty Administrator
Kristen Franklin is the Faculty Administrator at CodeVA, overseeing a statewide group of teacher facilitators leading computer science teacher trainings. She holds a B.S. in Elementary Ed. and a M.Ed. in Early Childhood Ed. with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction, including certifications in ESL and Administrative Educational Leadership. She taught elementary school for 16 years, served as an instructional coach, and was the Integrated Curriculum Lead for CodeVA. Mrs. Franklin also co-wrote the National Education Association’s Computer Science microcredential stack in 2019.

Session description

Hear from a team conducting a National Science Foundation grant study utilizing peer-coaching to integrate computer science in rural middle schools. Examine strategies for blending storytelling and computer science using unplugged activities and plugged tools like Twine.

Purpose & objective

Educational challenge:
Strengthening computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education is a national priority with particular attention to increasing the number of teachers prepared to deliver computer science courses. Rural schools that collectively serve more than 10 million students have difficulty recruiting and retaining STEM teachers that are prepared to teach computer science and computational thinking. Training teachers to be peer coaches builds teachers' self-efficacy to deliver computer science concepts and practices into middle school social studies classrooms.

Technology intervention:
The main technology intervention mentioned in this session is Twine, a website-building tool used to tell stories, located at

Models employed:
The peer-coaching model generally follows Jim Knight’s Impact Cycle for Coaching, involving the three phases of identify, learn, and improve. In addition, peer coaches experience coaching through the use of Exploring Computer Science’s TLO method. Exploring Computer Science ( is an equity-based approach to teaching computer science with a nationally-based curriculum. Their TLO method for adult learners involves a Teacher, Learner, Observer reflective approach to teaching. Once coaches experience a lesson through a TLO, they can modify that lesson and incorporate it into their own classrooms, and then later they can teach it in a TLO format as the peer coach to other educators.

Lesson plans or instructional activities/strategies employed:
In this session, peer coaches first experience coaching themselves through professional development provided by CodeVA coaches. They are guided in their own peer coaching development to implement coaching with their peers, focusing on unplugged computer science activities that lead to integrating the technology tool of Twine, located at We have created specific Trail Guides for participants to learn and practice Twine at We also use the Twine Cookbook at for useful tips for our project participants.

Evidence of Success:
This session is facilitated by people who have been involved in all aspects of this NSF grant project since the beginning, and we are now in the third year of implementation. Participants will hear from curriculum writers and developers who created the professional development for the peer coaches, and they will hear from a current CodeVA coach who is working closely with the peer coaches. We have a plethora of feedback from our research team (TERC), including written testimony and recorded videos of lesson implementation.

More [+]


5 min - Introduction
10 min - Explanation of NSF Grant Project, and the role of peer coaches within the project
15 min - Strategies used to move educators into the peer-coaching role (successes and failures, adjustments we made) - Show movement from unplugged lessons to Twine
20 min - Current process we are using to scaffold peer coaching and help peer coaches to scaffold CS for their peers - Show Coaching Tools
10 min - Questions/Discussion

More [+]

Supporting research

Interdisciplinary Approaches Research suggests that integrating STEM topics into social studies has great promise. A recent pilot study introducing CS programming into a data literacy course for pre-service social studies teachers, showed that participants went from “initially did not believe programming would be useful” to an “..eagerness to learn and do more with programming for their purposes.” (Naimipour, Guzdial & Schreiner, 2019). Another study focused on teaching students computational thinking and skills by using Scratch to program history-related games, indicated “the instructional unit enables the learning of basic computing concepts (specifically programming) in an efficient, effective and entertaining way increasing also the interest and motivation of students to learn computing.” (Gresse von Wangenheim, Alves, Rodrigues, & Hauck, 2017). Another study used app development as a way to involve students in developing historical thinking skills and reported that the students found it “fun”, “challenging” and “rewarding”, and the learning objectives were achieved (King, et al. 2014).
Broadening Participation Since social studies is a core course, integrating CS/CT into SS counters the tendency of girls and students from other under-represented groups to opt out of standalone CS courses (Cheryan, Master & Meltzoff, 2015; Perez-Felkner et al., 2012). It may also increase interest in CS by underrepresented groups. One small study focused on 30 rural students from low socio-economic
background (11 boys/19 girls; identifying as 27 African American, 2 Latino, 1 mixed) 87% of participants had not ever tried programming, but after creating SS-focused apps, 86% of participants indicated that they would be interested in creating another app. (Jimenez & Gardner-McCune, 2015).
Culturally Relevant Practices “Rural” is not a single monolithic culture, there is wide diversity in what that means (Kastelein et al., 2018; Showalter, 2017), so considering cultural relevance on localized levels is at the core of Reaching Across the Hallway. The term “culturally relevant practices” is used in this proposal as a term that embraces Gay’s approach to culturally responsive teaching, which “filters curriculum content and teaching strategies through their [participants’] cultural frames of reference to make the content more personally meaningful and easier to master.” (Gay, 2013) and also blends in three key skills for teachers: 1) recognizing that there are cultural differences among and between students, and understanding what those are; 2) responding to those differences in a positive manner; and 3) being prepared to adapt, respond and interact effectively in a variety of cultural environments (Robins, Lindsey, Lindsey & Terrell, 2005). Studies have shown improved outcomes through using culturally relevant practices in STEM disciplines (Lipka 2005; Gilbert et al., 2008; Boykin 2005), and multiple studies have shown that developing and using culturally relevant materials is an effective strategy for engaging students from underrepresented groups in CS/CT (Kafai et al., 2014; Scott et al., 2015; Berglund, 2006).
There can be risks to integrating CS/CT into social studies, which can be mitigated by using culturally relevant practices. Data sets, for example, will represent the time in which they were created, intersecting with racialized discourses and identities. Current scholarship in this area stresses the importance of culturally relevant practices when integrating CS/CT into social studies topics. (Denner et al., 2015; Domenech-Rodriguez et al., 2011; Scott & White, 2013). Although complex, these situations offer a rich opportunity for deeper data analysis in its historical context. Reaching Across the Hallway will employ a culturally relevant teaching (CRT) specialist as a curriculum and PD writer for the development of materials, has included questions around cultural relevancy in the Research Design, and has engaged two highly regarded Advisors to guide and help iterate on this work: Kinnis Gosha (Director of the nationally recognized Culturally Relevant Computing Lab) and Doris Terry Williams, Sr. Fellow at the Rural School and Community Trust (Rural Trust) who has deep knowledge of rural communities and many of their cultural strengths.
Building Self-efficacy Acquiring knowledge and building skills do not necessarily translate into better teaching practice (Leonard, 2008; Pajares, 1996). The role of self-efficacy (one's belief in one's ability to succeed in specific situations) in science teaching has been studied extensively (e.g., Bandura, 2006; McKinnon & Lamberts, 2014; Tschannen-Moran & Hoy, 2001), and consistently shown to be one of the critical factors in successful classroom practice. The positive effect of professional development on participating teachers’ self-efficacy is also documented in numerous studies (Knowles, 2017; Kazempour & Sadler, 2015; Tuchman & Isaacs, 2011). Reaching Across the Hallway will rely on a scaffolded approach (Palincsar,1986; Beed, Hawkins, & Roller, 1991), providing gradually reduced interactions to build the self-efficacy of participating ICs, TLs, and classroom teachers over the course of the project. Scaffolding allows learners to construct an understanding of how to apply new skills and information into other areas of knowledge (Wise & O’Neill, 2009). One key strategy for providing self-efficacy building blocks will be the online PLC. PLCs have long been noted as providing structured support that helps teachers strengthen and test their pedagogy (Hipp, Huffman, Pankake, & Olivier, 2008; Hord, 1997), and encourage their peers (Stoll, Bolam, McMahon, Wallace, & Thomas, 2006).

Co-PI Debra Bernstein Designing Biomimetic Robots: Researching the Impact of an Interdisciplinary Bio-Engineering-Computational Design Curriculum on Middle School Engineering and Science Education (DRL-1742127, $1,198,780, 8/2017-7/2020; PI: Bernstein). The project is developing and researching an intervention to support the development of interdisciplinary STEM knowledge and practices using a 4- week researcher-designed curriculum that integrates bio-inspired engineering design, robotics, and computer programming content and practices into middle school STEM classrooms, and a teacher professional development program. Interim results suggest that the curriculum provides participating students with opportunities to engage in computational thinking practices, and to learn science and computational content. Intellectual Merit: The project will contribute to theory about the design of interdisciplinary learning environments, as well as forward our understanding of how to support teachers to implement robotics and CS curricula. Broader Impacts: The integrated nature of BioRobots provides a broader range of middle school students with an opportunity to engage in robotics and programming tasks. Publications: See Shaw et al., 2018; Bernstein, 2018; Bernstein et al., 2019; Shaw et al., 2019 in References Cited. Evidence of availability: Curriculum design and dissemination work is ongoing.

Integrating Digital Play with Tangible Technologies into Inquiry Project Investigations in Early Childhood Classrooms Funded by University of South Florida Nexus Grant. Co-PI: Michael Berson. The aim of this project is to identify and document how young children develop computational thinking while coding tangible technologies in an emergent child-centered STEM curriculum. The research objectives are to engage in comparative research, by:
1. Documenting the use of tangible coding technologies in early childhood education; 2. Exploring preservice teachers’ self-efficacy, views, and attitudes towards the use of tangible technologies and developmental appropriateness of computational thinking skills; and 3. Examining how young children develop and demonstrate transversal competencies when using tangible coding technologies as part of play-based inquiry.

Edward Ayers is Tucker-Boatwright Professor of the Humanities and president emeritus at the University of Richmond. Dr. Ayers has been named National Professor of the Year, received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama at the White House, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and won the Bancroft Prize for distinguished writing in American history. Leigh Ann DeLyser is a managing partner of CSforALL and is a former high school and university CS educator. Her influential "Running on Empty" report guides policies and research that support high-quality CS program implementation. Kinnis Gosha is a Hortenius I. Chenault Endowed Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department at Morehouse College. He is also the Director of the nationally recognized Culturally Relevant Computing Lab. Mark Guzdial is Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the University of Michigan, where he directs the Contextualized Support for Learning Lab. His work on the development of Media Computation, an approach that emphasizes context in computer science education has been adopted by numerous universities. Hasan Kwame Jeffries is an associate professor of African American history and holds a joint appointment with the Kirwan Institute and the Department of History at Ohio State University. He is the author of Bloody Lowndes: Civil Rights and Black Power in Alabama's Black Belt. Karen Mutch-Jones is the co-Director of the STEM Education Evaluation Center (SEEC) at TERC. Currently she serves as evaluation director for the NSF GeniGUIDE project, focusing on teacher instruction within a genetics gaming environment and for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s BioInteractive resource study. Susan H. Rodger is a Professor of Computer Science at Duke, noted for her work in computer science education she has led research into peer-led learning in CS and integrating CS into middle school humanities classrooms. She was chair of SIGCSE from 2013- 2016. Doris Terry Williams is a Sr. Fellow at the Rural School and Community Trust (Rural Trust), and previously led North Carolina Central University teacher education program reform that included establishing a professional development network of rural and urban school districts.

More [+]

Session specifications

Coaching & mentoring
Grade level:
Skill level:
Coaches, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices:
Devices required
Attendee device specification:
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Subject area:
Computer science
ISTE Standards:
For Coaches:
Change Agent
  • Create a shared vision and culture for using technology to learn and accelerate transformation through the coaching process.
  • Cultivate a supportive coaching culture that encourages educators and leaders to achieve a shared vision and individual goals.
  • Partner with educators to identify digital learning content that is culturally relevant, developmentally appropriate and aligned to content standards.