• Proposal: 04/13/2020


  • Amount: up to $2m
  • Duration: up to 4 years


A key goal of this program is to provide all U.S. students with the opportunity to participate in computer science (CS) and computational thinking (CT) education in their schools at the preK-12 levels. CT refers to the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions in such a way that the solutions can be effectively carried out by an information-processing agent (usually a computer) [1]. CT activities do not require the presence of a computing tool, but involve the requisite reasoning needed to capitalize on the use of computational tools. CS, as used in this solicitation, includes CT but also the broad range of understandings, competencies, and skills needed to apply computation in our digital world. It includes topics of problem specification and representation; algorithm development; software design, programming, and debugging; the Internet and networking; big data; cybersecurity; and application across a wide range of disciplines, including the associated societal impact and ethical considerations. This solicitation focuses on CS and CT instruction, as distinct from the mere use of computers or the use of common computational tools such as word processors or video editing or presentation software. The ability to use such tools is often referred to as computational literacy. This solicitation supports education beyond computational literacy.

“Building Computational Literacy” is one of four pathways identified in the 2018-2023 five-year plan for achieving the Federal government’s three goals for STEM education, titled Charting A Course for Success: America’s Strategy for STEM Education. A central purpose of this pathway is to “advance CT as a critical skill for today’s world.” “Make CT an integral element of all education” is one of three objectives under that pathway—and three key Federal actions are identified in the plan as needed to achieve this objective.

  • “Increase the number of Federal funding and partnership opportunities that include CT as a selection criterion.”
  • “Support research and disseminate best practices on effective methods for teaching CT and computer science to young children as part of the STEM curriculum.”
  • “Identify and share education practices and curriculum materials that are effective at developing CT.”

As the lead Federal agency for building the research knowledge base for CS and CT education, NSF aims to build upon past and ongoing efforts to enable rigorous and engaging CS and CT education in schools across the Nation, including over $20 million spent in FY 2019 in support of these efforts.

Specifically, this solicitation aims to provide (1) high school teachers with the preparation, professional development (PD) and ongoing support they need to teach rigorous computer science courses; (2) preK-8 teachers with the instructional materials and preparation they need to integrate CS and CT into their teaching; and (3) schools and districts with the resources needed to define and evaluate multi-grade pathways in CS and CT.

Areas of research can include but are not limited to:

  • Fundamental knowledge about learning all aspects of introductory computer science (e.g., how students learn algorithms, how computational thinking can be supported, what introductory competencies are, how these competencies build on each other over time, how introductory competencies are learned in contexts of STEM disciplines, etc.)
  • Aspirational learning goals in light of the expanding role of computing in society
  • Models of reasoning in computer science as they relate to reasoning in natural sciences, health sciences, mathematics, social sciences, ethics, business, etc.
  • Pathways from K-12 into community colleges and community colleges into the tech workforce and/or into 4-year institutions (e.g. metrics of student success, models of student support through the “bridge” points of the pathway, how community colleges manage the dual role of workforce training and transfer to 4-year programs, etc.)
  • Computer science literacy, both in terms of reading and writing code and more expansively in terms of reasoning computationally about issues in disciplinary domains and society
  • Challenges faced by, and resources possessed by, students from groups currently underrepresented in computer science disciplines
  • How computer science learning can be framed in ways that invite, value, and build on students’ diverse cultural and linguistic resources
  • How overly competitive or “defensive” classroom climates are cultivated, how this impacts learning outcomes, and strategies to foster collaboration and an inclusive climate among students
  • Associations between particular instructional strategies and student learning
  • Teacher knowledge and its development for teaching computer science to all students

Eligibility & Submission Requirements

Proposal size classes:

Proposals in the RPP and Research Strands may be submitted in the following size classes:

  • Small RPP proposals (maximum of $300,000 for up to 2 years) are designed to support the initial steps in establishing a strong and well-integrated RPP team that could successfully compete for a Medium or Large proposal in the near future.
  • Medium RPP proposals (maximum of $1,000,000 for up to 3 years) are designed to support the modest scaling of a promising approach by a well-defined RPP team.
  • Large RPP proposals (maximum of $2,000,000 for up to 4 years) are designed to support the widespread scaling of an evidence-based approach by a RPP team that builds on prior collaborations.
  • Research proposals (maximum of $500,000 for up to 3 years) are designed to support research projects.

The size class should be specified in the first line of the Project Summary.

Contact Information

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.

  • Jeffrey Forbes, CISE/CNS, telephone: (703) 292-8950, email:
  • Michael Ford, EHR/DRL, telephone: (703) 292-5153, email: