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Parental Influence on Children's Computational Thinking in an Informal Setting (Fundamental Research)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Computational Thinking in Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Carson Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Undergraduate Student in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering at Purdue University

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Hoda Ehsan Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Hoda is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education, Purdue. She received her B.S. in mechanical engineering in Iran, and obtained her M.S. in Childhood Education and New York teaching certification from City College of New York (CUNY-CCNY). She is now a graduate research assistant on STEM+C project. Her research interests include designing informal setting for engineering learning, and promoting engineering thinking in differently abled students in informal and formal settings.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Monica E. Cardella is the Director of the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering and is an Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University.

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Parental Influence on Children’s Computational Thinking in an Informal Setting

Informal learning environments such as science centers and museums are instrumental in the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. These settings provide children with the chance to engage in self-directed activities that can create a of lifelong interest and persistence in STEM. On the other hand, the presence of parents in these settings allows children the opportunity to work together and engage in conversations that can boost understanding and enhance learning of STEM topics. To date, a considerable amount of research has focused on adult-child dialogue. Findings from those studies revealed that children experience more elaborate scientific thinking when parents are present to help facilitate learning.

Given the need for engineers to have computer science skills, academic discourse has placed emphasis on studying computational thinking (CT) in children. While recent studies focus on the roles parents play on children’s engineering thinking, very limited studies have explored parents’ influence on children’s engagement in CT in informal settings. Therefore, in this study, we investigate the roles that parents play in promoting computational thinking in their young children.

In this study, families of 5-7 years old children were invited to a local science center. The families were asked to interact with an exhibit that is designed to promote engineering and computational thinking in children. To date, we have collected video and audio data from observations of 13 families' interactions with the exhibit. Drawing on previous literature from engineering education and informal science education, a coding scheme was developed with the essential roles that parents play in science centers and museums. The roles include Supervising, Co-learning, Facilitating, Encouragement and Student of the child.

We will conduct a qualitative case study to closely examine child-parent interactions during one portion of the exhibit, an interactive coding game. Additionally, we will use interview data from the observations for more clarifications on how parents facilitated the interactions. The findings of this study will advance our understanding of how parents can support computational thinking while engaging in conversations during engineering activities.

Ohland, C., & Ehsan, H., & Cardella, M. E. (2019, June), Parental Influence on Children's Computational Thinking in an Informal Setting (Fundamental Research) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33157

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