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Understanding student computational thinking with computational modeling 

written by John M. Aiken, Marcos D. Caballero, Scott S. Douglas, John B. Burk, Erin M. Scanlon, Brian D. Thoms, and Michael F. Schatz

Recently, the National Research Council's framework for next generation science standards highlighted "computational thinking" as one of its "fundamental practices". 9th Grade students taking a physics course that employed the Arizona State University's Modeling Instruction curriculum were taught to construct computational models of physical systems. Student computational thinking was assessed using a proctored programming assignment, written essay, and a series of think-aloud interviews, where the students produced and discussed a computational model of a baseball in motion via a high-level programming environment (VPython). Roughly a third of the students in the study were successful in completing the programming assignment. Student success on this assessment was tied to how students synthesized their knowledge of physics and computation. On the essay and interview assessments, students displayed unique views of the relationship between force and motion; those who spoke of this relationship in causal (rather than observational) terms tended to have more success in the programming exercise.

Published January 24, 2013
Last Modified February 21, 2013

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