Including Neurodiversity in Foundational and Applied Computational Thinking

Lead Staff:
Jodi Asbell-Clarke
Project Staff:
Erin Bardar
Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki
Teon Edwards
Kelly Paulson
Renee Pawlowski
Tara Robillard
Elizabeth Rowe


EdGE at TERC is working with a team of leading researchers and practitioners to design, develop, and implement a comprehensive and inclusive program for computational thinking in grades 3-8. This program will embed supports for attention, metacognition, and social-emotional learning and use educational data mining to make supports and pacing customizable for the strengths and struggles of each unique learner.


Funded by the US Department of Education’s Education Innovation and Research program, INFACT is Including Neurodiversity in Foundational and Applied Computational Thinking (CT). A consortium of university and non-profit partners are working with TERC for the design, development, implementation, and research of a comprehensive set of teaching and learning materials for grades 3-8. These materials embed scaffolds for supporting executive function (EF) in neurodiverse learners using CT learning activities. 

Project INFACT

INFACT introduces CT practices such as problem decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithm design through learning games, robotics, and introductory coding activities. Computing structures such as conditionals, loops, variables, and functions are introduced using examples from daily life and are extended into various applications. 

INFACT pays particular attention to the inclusion of a wide range of learners, including neurodiverse learners. INFACT recognizes each learner brings a unique set of assets and deficits to every learning situation. By adapting to those strengths and weaknesses and by providing cognitive and social-emotional support, INFACT strives to leverage the talents needed to build a strong STEM workforce.

The INFACT Portal allows differentiated delivery of INFACT materials. Teachers can filter by grade level, student equipment and internet access, remote and in-person classroom settings, and level of scaffolding. These filters build customized sequences for different classes and for different students (or groups of students) within a class. The INFACT Portal also provides easy and secure student access to INFACT online games and materials.

Research Activity

INFACT includes iterative design research for the first two years, which is followed by an efficacy study. The efficacy study, conducted by Knology, will examine the impact of EF scaffolds on the productive persistence of neurodiverse learners within the INFACT activities. Our team is designing automated methods for the detection of productive and unproductive persistence. We hope in future work these detectors can be used in adaptivity models that customize the delivery of the experience based upon the detected state of the learner.

The INFACT research team is also exploring the use of novel methods of research, including eye-tracking and facial recognition using web-based cameras, screen capture, and audio/video. These technologies inform new modes of assessment and may capture important activity from neurodiverse learners that otherwise could go unrecognized. 

Research Study

EdGE at TERC is looking for participants in a new research study.