Secondary school students’ programming and computational thinking skills: traditional and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching programming

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2021-2-15
Altın, Rükiye
The focus on K-12 Computer Science education has increased in line with today’s need for a population skilled in computational thinking, and with the growth in careers that are within or at least related to the field of computer science. As such, young learners should be introduced to computer science from an early age, as programming is now considered by many to be an indispensable change to traditional learning methods, and is seen as playing a significant role in the future career choices of most school-aged learners. The current study aims to serve two main purposes. First, the study focused on the effects of teaching programming, through both a traditional and an interdisciplinary approach, on secondary school students’ programming skills and also on their computational thinking skills. Second, the study examined how to involve mathematics as a second discipline in the teaching of programming in order to assess the differences between programming skills acquisition and retention. The study presents a Quasi-Experimental research conducted on a large sample (N = 188), with four randomly assigned experimental groups and four randomly assigned control groups. In this context, the study’s data were collected using three different scales; the Computer Programming Self-Efficacy Scale, the Computational Thinking Skills Self-Efficacy Scale, and the Mathematics Attitude Scale, in addition to an achievement test applied to students according to the programming language that they were taught. Interviews were conducted with both the students and their teachers in order to collect the study’s qualitative data. The study was applied with two different sets of groups, with those in the experimental groups taught using an interdisciplinary approach, whilst those in the control groups were taught according to the traditional method. Both sets of groups were taught based on different lesson plans, with the experimental groups taught programming with the integration of mathematics, while the control groups were taught according to the traditional single-discipline method. In total, 12 ICT teachers and two mathematics teachers took an active part in the preparation of both lesson plans and the activities. The study’s results showed that teaching programming with mathematics integrated as an interdisciplinary approach increased both the students’ programming and computational thinking skills. Additionally, the results showed that teaching programming with the integration of mathematics affected the students’ learning processes. According to retention results having notably increased for those students who studied in the experimental groups, the learners maintained their newly learned programming knowledge within their long-term memory. The current study is therefore considered important in that it provides lesson plans for a secondary school programming course that has been shown to positively affect students’ programming learning.

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Citation Formats
R. Altın, “Secondary school students’ programming and computational thinking skills: traditional and interdisciplinary approaches to teaching programming,” Ph.D. - Doctoral Program, Middle East Technical University, 2021.