How Broad is Computational Thinking? A Longitudinal Study of Practices Shaping Learning in Computer Science

Proctor, C., & Blikstein, P. (2018). Kay, J., & Luckin, R. (Eds.). How broad is computational thinking? a longitudinal study of practices shaping learning in computer science. Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age. Making the Learning Sciences Count (pp. 544–551). International Society of the Learning Sciences.

Computer science is becoming a mainstream school subject, yet we know relatively little about teaching, learning, and assessing computer science at the primary and secondary level. Few studies have followed the long-term trajectories of early computer science learners. We present a longitudinal study of a school cohort (N=48) across a three-year computer science curriculum 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 a primary emphasis on content knowledge.

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{proctor_2018_how_broad_ct,
    author = "Proctor, Chris and Blikstein, Paulo",
    editor = "Kay, Judy and Luckin, Rosemary",
    location = "London, {UK}",
    title = "How Broad is Computational Thinking? A Longitudinal Study of Practices Shaping Learning in Computer Science",
    volume = "3",
    abstract = "Computer science is becoming a mainstream school subject, yet we know relatively little about teaching, learning, and assessing computer science at the primary and secondary level. Few studies have followed the long-term trajectories of early computer science learners. We present a longitudinal study of a school cohort (N=48) across a three-year computer science curriculum 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 a primary emphasis on content knowledge.",
    eventtitle = "Proceedings of the Thirteenth International Conference for the Learning Sciences – {ICLS} 2018",
    pages = "544--551",
    booktitle = "Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age. Making the Learning Sciences Count",
    publisher = "International Society of the Learning Sciences",
    year = "2018",
    url = "https://chrisproctor.net/publications/proctor\_2018\_how\_broad\_ct",
    pdf = "https://chrisproctor.net/media/publications/proctor\_2018\_how\_broad\_ct.pdf"
}

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