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Identifying computational thinking in students through project-based problem-solving activities

Dazhi Yang (Department of Educational Technology, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA)
Chareen Snelson (Department of Educational Technology, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA)
Shi Feng (Department of Educational Technology, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho, USA)

Information Discovery and Delivery

ISSN: 2398-6247

Article publication date: 4 January 2023

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Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to identify computational thinking (CT) in 4th to 6th grade students in the context of project-based problem-solving while engaged in an after-school program.

Design/methodology/approach

This case study approach was selected due to its suitability for answering “how” or “why” questions about real-world phenomena within a set context (Creswell and Poth, 2018; Yin, 2018). This was an appropriate fit given the context of an after-school program and the research question asked how to identify learners’ demonstrated CT through project-based learning hands-on activities and problem-solving in a naturalistic environment.

Findings

Results show that heuristics, algorithms and conditional logic were observed more than other components of CT such as data collection, simulations and modeling. Descriptions of common activities in a naturalistic learning environment are presented to illustrate how the students practiced CT over time, which could help readers develop an understanding of CT in conjunction with hands-on problem-solving activities in elementary students. Identifying and classifying CT in this study focused on students’ learning process.

Originality/value

This study contributes to the challenging field of evaluating CT while focusing on observable behaviors and problem-solving activities with various degrees of teacher’s facilitation instead of final artifacts. Implications for researchers and educators interested in integrating CT in K-12 learning and its assessment are discussed.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the National Science Foundation (NSF) for the support of this study under Grant Number 1640228. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in this material are those of the authors.

Citation

Yang, D., Snelson, C. and Feng, S. (2023), "Identifying computational thinking in students through project-based problem-solving activities", Information Discovery and Delivery, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/IDD-09-2022-0091

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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