How broad is computational thinking?

Computer science is becoming a mainstream school subject, yet we know very little about how children learn computer science or how to measure such learning. We conducted a three-year longitudinal study of students studying computer science in grades 6-8. We analyzed students' Scratch projects in terms of elaboration and computational thinking content, and modeled their association with performance on a summative open-ended assessment of computational thinking. Both metrics were associated with performance on the summative task, but engagement had a much more substantial effect. This supports the idea that early computer science experience should be designed to support students in working on personally-meaningful projects. Developing computational literacy practices may be more important for long-term growth in computational thinking than ensuring all students have a uniform foundation in content knowledge.


Proctor, C., & Blikstein, P. (2018). Manuscript in preparation. We are currently preparing a journal article corroborating our findings with students' reflective writing over the three-year curricular sequence.

Proctor, C., & Blikstein, P. (2018). How broad is computational thinking? A longitudinal study of practices shaping computer science learning. Full paper to be presented at International Conference of the Learning Sciences (ICLS) 2018, London, UK. (PDF)