The Analysis of a Novel Computational Thinking Test in a First Year Undergraduate Computer Science Course

Mooney, Aidan and Lockwood, James (2020) The Analysis of a Novel Computational Thinking Test in a First Year Undergraduate Computer Science Course. AISHE-J : The All Ireland Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 12 (1). pp. 1-27. ISSN 2009-3160


In Ireland, Computer Science is not yet a state examination subject. In recent years, steps to include it have been taken - it was introduced as a Leaving Certificate subject in the academic year of 2018-19 on a pilot basis and will be examined for the first time in 2020 (O’Brien, 2017). Prior to this, the only Computer Science course offered at second level was a Junior Certificate Coding short course (NCCA, 2017). Research shows that an early introduction to computing is an advantage for students. It can build confidence in dealing with complexity and with open-ended problems (Yevseyeva &Towhidnejad, 2012). Problem-solving skills can be extended and transferred as reported by Koh et al. (2013) and students’ analytical skills can be improved according to Lishinski et al. (2016) and Van Dyne and Braun (2014). It has been shown by Webb and Rosson (2013) that students’ self-efficacy for computational problem solving, abstraction, debugging and terminology can be in-creased. It has also been found that teaching Computational Thinking can provide a better understanding of how programming is about solving a problem (not just coding) and that it can improve female students’ attitudes and confidence towards programming (Davies, 2008). One especially interesting finding is that exposure to Computational Thinking can be used as an early indicator and predictor of academic success since Computational Thinking scores have been found to correlate strongly with general academic achievement by Haddad and Kalaani (2015). This paper examines first year undergraduate Computer Science students who took a novel test to assess their Computational Thinking skills and in addition a survey gathering their views on Computer Science and Computational Thinking. This survey was administered twice within the academic year and comparisons are drawn on the changes between these survey results.

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