INFACT Efficacy Report

A new project uses computational thinking materials among neurodiverse groups of students.

by Bennett AttawayJohn Voiklis
Mar 13, 2023

Within educational contexts, the concept of "computational thinking" (CT) has generated increasing interest in recent years. Generally speaking, CT refers to a mode of instruction that draws on problem-solving techniques often used in computer science—for example, problem decomposition, algorithm design, and debugging. CT-based educational interventions are especially popular with STEM teachers, and typically, they focus on programming activities that require access to a computer (and sometimes, specialized equipment like robots). Research demonstrates that CT is particularly effective in tapping into the cognitive strengths of neurodivergent students (for example, those who might be diagnosed with dyslexia, ADHD, or autism), and that CT-based interventions offer a path toward more inclusive education.

Despite this, most CT materials and resources have been designed with neurotypical learners in mind. To ensure that students who need support in certain cognitive areas (for example, those who struggle with attention, working memory, or information processing) also benefit from CT, a project known as INFACT (which stands for "Include Neurodiversity in Foundational and Applied Computational Thinking") was launched. In contrast to many other CT interventions, INFACT is designed for use among neurodiverse groups of students. It offers a flexible curriculum teachers can customize for their classes, including options for "unplugged" activities as well as online games and programming, and does not require that teachers have a background in computer science or computer programming.

Knology served as the independent evaluator for this project, and evaluated its efficacy in accordance with What Works Clearinghouse guidelines. Our study compared outcomes on a computational thinking assessment for neurodiverse classrooms using either INFACT or the "business-as-usual" CT instruction teachers in control schools were already providing. For the results of our evaluation, see the report attached at the top of the page.

About the Project

This project is part of Include Neurodiversity in Foundational & Applied Computational Thinking (INFACT), a grant supported by the Education Innovation and Research Program (EIR) of the U.S. Department of Education (award U411C190179).

For more on this project, see our articles, "Education in the Pandemic & the Potential for Computational Thinking" and "Teaching in the Age of COVID-19: Computational Thinking & Support for Educators."

Photo by Андрей Сизов at Unsplash

Join the Conversation
What did you think of this? How did you use it? Is there something else we should be thinking of?
Support research that has a real world impact.