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A Learning Trajectory for Developing Computational Thinking and Programming

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

First-Year Programs: Tuesday Potpourri

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

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Paper Authors


Sean P. Brophy Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Dr. Sean Brophy is a mechanical engineer, computer scientist and learning scientists. His research in engineering education and learning sciences explores how undergraduate engineering students develop skills in design, troubleshooting and analytical reasoning. He is particularly interested in how these skills develop through students' interaction with technology.

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Tony Andrew Lowe Purdue University, West Lafayette (College of Engineering)

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Tony Lowe is a PhD candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has a BSEE from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a MSIT from Capella. He currently teaches as an adjunct at CTU Online and has been an on-and-off corporate educator and full time software engineer for twenty years.

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A learning trajectory for developing computational thinking and programming This research study identifies the relationship between students’ prior experiences with programming and their development of computational thinking and programming during their first year engineering experience. Many first year programs teach students basic programming constructs using languages like MATLAB or LABView. The reason for this is because the disciplinary schools expect students to transform the constitutive properties that model a system’s behavior into a computer model they can use to analyze a system’s performance. Some undergraduate engineering students are entering college with strong computational backgrounds, while others are not. Peer learning has been used to accommodate the variance is skills between students; however, more needs to be known about the opportunities and issues with helping students develop these skills. This study is the first in a series to better identify students’ transition into developing and reasoning with analytical tools. The initial conjecture is that well balanced teams of novice and expert programmers can have a positive effect on the novice programmer’s development. Further the learning progression across two programming languages is critical to developing a student’s ability to generalize across various computational tools. Self-report background survey, students’ performance on academic assessments and an end of semester exit survey are being analyzed to identify a pattern in the development of novice programmers’ ability to design algorithms and implement them in code. This paper will be of interest to instructors with the objective of developing computational thinking and programming in classrooms with a large variance in students’ backgrounds with programming.

Brophy, S. P., & Lowe, T. A. (2017, June), A Learning Trajectory for Developing Computational Thinking and Programming Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--27472

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