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  • COLLABORATIVELY LEARNING COMPUTATIONAL THINKING

    BUSHRA T. CHOWDHURY

    Dissertation submitted to the faculty of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and

    State University in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    in

    Engineering Education

    Aditya Johri, Co-Chair

    Vinod K. Lohani, Co-Chair

    Dennis G. Kafura, Member

    Elizabeth D. McNair, Member

    6 JULY 2017

    Blacksburg, VA

    Keywords: Computational Thinking, Computational Concepts, Collaborative Learning, Social

    Interactions, Novice Learners

  • Collaboratively Learning Computational Thinking

    Bushra T. Chowdhury

    ABSTRACT

    Skill sets such as understanding and applying computational concepts are essential

    prerequisites for success in the 21st century. One can learn computational concepts by taking a

    traditional course offered in a school or by self-guided learning through an online platform.

    Collaborative learning has emerged as an approach that researchers have found to be generally

    applicable and effective for teaching computational concepts. Rather than learning individually,

    collaboration can help reduce the anxiety level of learners, improve understanding and create a

    positive atmosphere to learning Computational Thinking (CT). There is, however, limited

    research focusing on how natural collaborative interactions among learners manifest during

    learning of computational concepts.

    Structured as a manuscript style dissertation, this doctoral study investigates three

    different but related aspects of novice learners collaboratively learning CT. The first manuscript

    (qualitative study) provides an overall understanding of the contextual factors and characterizes

    collaborative aspects of learning in a CT face-to-face classroom at a large Southeastern

    University. The second manuscript (qualitative study) investigates the social interaction

    occurring between group members of the same classroom. And the third manuscript (quantitative

    study) focuses on the relationship between different social interactions initiated by users and

    learning of CT in an online learning platform Scratch™. In the two diverse settings, Chi’s (2009)

    Differentiated Overt Learning Activities (DOLA) has been used as a lens to better understand the

    significance of social interactions in terms of being active, constructive and interactive.

    Together, the findings of this dissertation study contribute to the limited body of CT research by

    providing insight on novice learner’s attitude towards learning CT, collaborative moments of

    learning CT, and the differences in relationship between social interactions and learning CT. The

    identification of collaborative attributes of CT is expected to help educators in designing learning

    activities that facilitate such interactions within group of learners and lookout for traits of such

    activities to assess CT in both classroom and online settings.

  • Collaboratively Learning Computational Thinking

    Bushra T. Chowdhury

    GENERAL AUDIENCE ABSTRACT

    One of the overarching processes defining the future is the digital revolution, impinging

    on, reshaping, and transforming our personal and social lives. Computation is at the core of this

    change and is transforming how problems are defined, and solutions are found and implemented.

    Computer modeling, simulation and visualization software, Smart grid, and Software Defined

    Radio, are few examples where computation has allowed us to tackle problems from varied

    perspectives. Vast domains await discovery and mapping through creative processes of

    Computational Thinking (CT). CT is the thought process that enables us to effectively work in

    such a technology driven collaborative society. It provides us the ability to find the right

    technology for a problem and apply technology to resolve the problem.

    Skill sets such as understanding and applying computational concepts are essential

    prerequisites for success in the 21st century. One can learn CT by taking a traditional course

    offered in a school or by self-guided learning through an online platform. This doctoral study

    investigates three different but related aspects of how new learners are learning CT. The first

    qualitative study provides an overall understanding of circumstantial factors that influence the

    learning in a CT face-to-face classroom at a large Southeastern University. The second

    qualitative study investigates how students in groups (in the same classroom setting) can help

    each other to learn CT. And the third quantitative study focuses on users’ learning of CT in an

    online learning platform Scratch™. Together, the findings of this dissertation study contribute to

    the limited body of CT research by providing insight on new learner’s attitude towards learning

    CT, collaborative moments of learning CT, and the differences in the relationship between social

    interactions and learning CT. The identification of collaborative attributes of CT is expected to

    help educators in designing learning activities that facilitate such interactions within a group of

    learners and look out for traits of such activities to assess CT in both classroom and online

    settings.

  • iv

    DEDICATION

    To my family

  • v

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

    I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my committee members Dr. Vinod

    Lohani, Dr. Aditya Johri, Dr. Dannis Kafura and Dr. Lisa McNair. During the course of last five

    years, I have benefited tremendously from your guidance and support. Thank you.

    My gratitude extends to Dr. Holly Matusovich for all the inspiring and thoughtful

    discussions and suggestions. Thank you Holly, I could not have done it without you.

    I would like to thank my family, for all the sacrifices and difficulties they had to go

    through. Thank you Roddur, Fahmi, Mridula and Ahmed.

    Finally I would like to thank my parents. Whatever I am today, it is because of their

    support and guidance. Thank you Abba and Amma.

  • vi

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    CHAPTER 1 : COLLABORATIVELY LEARNING COMPUTATIONAL THINKING ........ 1

    1.1 Introduction ...................................................................................................................... 1

    1.2 Key Terms ........................................................................................................................ 4

    1.3 Statement of Purpose ........................................................................................................ 5

    1.4 Significance of the research ............................................................................................. 7

    1.5 Research Questions and Research Design ....................................................................... 8

    1.6 Scope of study ................................................................................................................ 11

    1.7 Limitations of the study.................................................................................................. 11

    1.8 Researcher bias ............................................................................................................... 12

    1.9 Summary ........................................................................................................................ 12

    CHAPTER 2 : LITERATURE REVIEW.................................................................................. 13

    2.1 Computational Thinking ................................................................................................ 13

    2.2 Learning CT Online ....................................................................................................... 18

    2.3 Face-to-Face CT Learning Opportunities ...................................................................... 19

    2.4 Assessment of CT........................................................................................................... 20

    2.5 Collaboratively Learning CT ......................................................................................... 21

    2.6 Summary ........................................................................................................................ 23

    CHAPTER 3 : UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS' EXPERIENCES IN LEARNING CT

    FROM AN INTERDISCIPLINARY GENERAL EDUCATION COURSE ............................... 24

    3.1 Abstract .......................................................................................................................... 24

    3.2 Introduction .................................................................................................................... 24

    3.3 Background and Theoretical Framework ....................................................................... 25

    3.4 Research Design ............................................................................................................. 27

    3.5 Findings .......................................................................................................................... 30

  • vii