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What are Computational Thinking Skills?
Image from Balanskat, A. & Engelhardt, K. (2015). Computing our future. Computer programming and coding: Priorities, school curricula and initiatives across Europe.
European Schoolnet: Brussles, Belgium. Retrieved from http://www.eun.org/c/document_library/get_ ﬁle?uuid=521cb928-6ec4-4a86-b522-9d8fd5cf60ce&groupId=43887
Collaborative study - 2 Brandon high
school teachers & Faculty of
City of approx. 50, 000 people (2016
22 schools in BSD, area K-8 schools
targeted, 2 taken part so far.
Students in a grade 11/12 Computer Science class are recruited
(voluntarily) to take part in teaching Scratch to local grade 7 & 8
Grade 7 & 8 teachers in area schools are recruited to take part in
Teachers are interviewed.
* Note: this project is still in progress - results presented are tentative.
● Pre & Post Surveys for students (SY & MY)
● Student focus groups (SY & MY)
● Teacher interviews
● In class observations
Data to date:
● 4 classes (grades 7 & 8) in 2 schools
● Teacher interviews: 3 (one teacher has been involved 2x)
● 3 SY focus groups
● 4 MY focus groups
● Pre-surveys: SY N = 5, MY N = 33
● Post surveys*: SY N = 14, MY N = 39
● Classes observed by PI: 3 sessions
So what did the high
school students say
about teaching Scratch
to MY students?
Senior Years Student Pre Survey Data
Post survey/focus group results: Senior Years Students
1) Teaching to MY students did not overall revolutionize what
they already knew about CS concepts.
2) SY students: critical thinking and problem solving skills
3) New respect for teachers and learners.
4) MY students beneﬁted by practicing how to be
5) MY students beneﬁted by being introduced to algorithmic
thinking (a skill they were lacking).
“Helped turn the abstract nature of computer science thinking
into concrete terms … forced us to think of things in a diﬀerent
way, teaching us new things about something old.”
“People tend to learn at diﬀerent paces, and explaining it one
way didn’t work for everyone.”
“Showing them the end goal, or end possibilities, is what got
them interested in wanting to learn Scratch.”
“Teaching kids is less about teaching them than to get them to
teach themselves. They had the ability to do it, you just have to
ﬁnd a way to make them want to do it.”
“One of the hardest things was you’d teach them something, and
then they’d forget. Or if you changed the context of the problem,
then they’d be lost. A lot of people really needed the step by step
list on how to do something.”
“I think it teaches more than just computer science, it teaches them
how to work toward an end goal, a step by step process to reach the
goal, and the skills needed to do that. The things they learned in this
course could apply to so many diﬀerent ﬁelds, I think.”
So what did the MY
students say about
Results from Middle Years Students
1) Most students enjoyed the experience and thought it was
2) Most girls decided they were not interested in CS as a
potential ﬁeld of employment. Male interest also went
down after the teaching.
3) Many students felt their problem solving skills were
increased, or had more conﬁdence in their abilities to ﬁnd
solutions to their problems.
“When you had to code, you had to think, and it was sort of like
“Keeping your code organized.”
“I would test an idea, and if it didn’t work, I’d try something
diﬀerent, and try again. The puzzle pieces of code really helped
because some things didn’t ﬁt together and others do.”
“At ﬁrst it was confusing, there were so many diﬀerent tabs and
buttons, but once we got the hang of it [by about 3rd session] it got
So what did the
teachers say about
having SY kids teach
Scratch to MY students?
Results from Teachers
Teachers were positive about the project. They told us about …
Students who coded outside of the lessons, even some
continuing after the sessions were completed.
How the MY students were (mostly) engaged and learned to ask
questions, and to help one another.
Some noticed problem solving skills improving in other areas (eg
“I don’t know how to code, so this seemed like a good opportunity”
“The beneﬁts were student engagement, and learning a new
skill. There was a lot of independent learning happening.”
“A huge skill for the students to learn was being able to do
something step by step.”
“The high school students were always trying something new,
and tackling the challenges they faced in teaching the middle
years (MY) students. They spoke the same ‘language’ as the MY
“Some of my students who were typically very shy actually
became the “go to” people for help in the class for coding.”
“Kids spent a lot of time being creative, and building diﬀerent
things in Scratch.”
On algorithmic thinking: “I’ve used the examples from Scratch to
demonstrate to my students that you can’t skip a step in an algorithm, or it
doesn’t work. Also the language we learned during Scratch has carried over.”
“Writing and communication skills--communication skills being the main
“Following directions, and being able to stay focused--we had kids who
generally can’t stay focused for long periods of time, but during the
Scratch lessons they didn’t want to lose their spot and were focused the
Some Preliminary Conclusions
This approach of ‘students teaching students’ appears to have
beneﬁts for all involved, for example:
● Can be a way to introduce teachers without a computer science
background to coding/CT.
● Helps students develop critical thinking skills.
● SY students solidify their coding skills and learn to plan and
communicate ideas to others.
● MY students can be introduced to coding in a fun, non threatening
way, this may lead to further interest in coding (Computer Science).