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AssignmentProject of the former Junior Research Group Neuro-cognitive Plasticity
FundingHector Foundation II
Project description

Being able to code or program reflects a crucial 21st century skill. Coding as a practical skill shares common concepts with the psychological construct of Computational Thinking (CT) as a cognitive ability. CT denotes the idea of developing a generic solution to a problem by decomposing it, identifying relevant variables and patterns, and deriving an algorithmic solution procedure. In the current project a Hector Core Course was developed and evaluated, which aimed at fostering CT by teaching children to code.

Current research results show significant correlations between CT and visual-spatial and problem-solving skills. We therefore expected, that fostering CT comes with beneficial transfer effects on solving tasks in different knowledge domains such as science, technology, and mathematics, which draw heavily on the application of domain-specific but also domain-general cognitive abilities. This course aimed at establishing an innovative approach on introducing primary school children to CT and further develop their CT ability by specifically promoting the explicit association of CT concepts with logical thinking and problem solving through creative playful activities. The instructional design of the course relied on game-based unplugged (i.e. a life-size board game series “Crabs & Turtles”) and plugged-in activities, multimodal concept demonstrations and an interdisciplinary approach on CT concepts. Its learning objectives were derived from and can be adapted to different learning domains and real-life conditions such as problems related to STEM contents.

The project was finished successfully. The developed course was evaluated in numerous Hector children academies and participating children improved their CT. The developed game series “Crabs & Turtles” is the winner of the 6th International Educational Games Competition 2018.

  • Prof. Dr. Jessika Golle, Prof. Dr. Ulrich Trautwein, University of Tübingen, Hector Research Institute of Education Sciences and Psychology

  • Prof. Dr. Niels Pinkwart, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Computer Science Education / Computer Science and Society

  • Prof. Dr. Martin Butz, University of Tübingen, Cognitive Modelling

  • Leifheit, L., Tsarava, K., Ninaus, M., Ostermann, K., Golle, J., Trautwein, U., & Moeller, K. (in press). SCAPA: Development of a Questionnaire Assessing Self-Concept and Attitudes Toward Programming. Proceedings of the 25th Annual Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education - ITiCSE 2020. ACM.

  • Tsarava, K., Moeller, K., & Ninaus, M. (2018). Training Computational Thinking through board games: The case of Crabs & Turtles. International Journal of Serious Games, 5(2), 25-44.

  • Tsarava, K., Moeller, K., Pinkwart, N., Butz, M., Trautwein, U., & Ninaus, M. (2017). Training computational thinking: Game-based unplugged and plugged-in activities in primary school. Proceedings of the 11th European Conference on Game Based Learning (pp. 687-695). Reading, UK: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited