Theses Doctoral

Computational Thinking in Children: The Impact of Embodiment on Debugging Practices in Programming

Ahn, Junghyun

Three studies were conducted to better inform how instructional design of educational programming for children impacts learning. In these studies, we focused on how unplugged debugging activities, which require correction of coding errors, affect skills related to computational thinking and personal attributes of children.

Study 1 observed debugging performance across varying degrees of embodiment (full and low) with a control group. To identify and rectify coding errors, children in the full embodiment group walked on a floor maze whereas low embodiment group manipulated a paper character using their fingers. Study 2 examined the effects of different degrees of embodiment when combined with either coding or narrative based language on computational thinking and self-efficacy. Children fixed coding errors on a worksheet using coding language or narratives, then performed their revised code using full or low embodiment. Study 3 explored whether congruent or incongruent hand gestures incorporated with either direct or surrogate embodiment enhanced children’s graphic and text programming, self-efficacy, and persistence. In the congruent gesture group, participants placed coding blocks in the same direction that the programming character moves whereas incongruent gesture placed coding blocks in a linear fashion. Direct embodiment is where the participant uses their finger to move a character whereas surrogate embodiment is where the researcher is controlled by the participant through verbal commands.

The results on computational thinking skills were: 1) Children performed better in debugging and problem solving using low embodiment; 2) Programming efficiency increased with the use of coding language; 3) Higher performance on graphic programming was found with incongruent gesture while transfer from graphic to text programming improved with surrogate embodiment. In personal attributes: 1) Significant interaction effect was found between hand gesture and embodiment on self-efficacy; 2) Higher persistence was exhibited from direct embodiment.

These findings between embodiment and development of computational thinking skills and personal attributes may be utilized in the unplugged learning environment. This is particularly relevant in supporting students to acquire basic computational thinking skills where relevant technology resources are not available.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Thesis Advisors
Black, John B.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 8, 2020