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Graduate Defense: Andrew Cook

April 8 @ 9:00 am - 11:00 am MDT

Dissertation Information

Title: Effects of Robotics Instructional Methods on Computational Thinking Skills of Middle School Students

Program: Doctor of Education in Education Technology

Advisor: Dr. Young Baek, Educational Technology

Committee Members: Dr. Yu-Chang Hsu, Educational Technology, and Dr. Yu-hui Ching, Educational Technology

Abstract

As a tangible and motivating medium for students to engage in computational thinking, robotics has drawn interest from educators and researchers as K-12 schools continue to integrate STEM into curriculum. Through this mixed methods study, the researcher sought to explore the effects of robotics instructional methods (task-based and project-based) on the computational thinking skills of middle school students, including the problem solving strategies used and the role of peer collaboration. The quantitative results of this study indicated no significant difference in the computational thinking skills of students participating in task-based or project-based robotics instruction. Interviews followed a phenomenological approach in which problem solving and collaboration in robotics were explored from the perspectives of the participants. In both groups, problem solving strategies encompassed all aspects of computational thinking as students took an iterative approach to problem solving in both tasks and projects. Peer collaboration was naturally occurring and frequent among both groups. In task-based robotics instruction, peer collaboration and problem solving strategies were primarily focused on the programming of the robot. In project-based robotics, peer collaboration and problem solving strategies were applied throughout the entire design process, including the building and the programming of the robot. Through this study, the researcher hoped to provide a roadmap for the implementation of robotics in schools for K-8 students. As schools are increasingly seeking ways to integrate robotics into school curriculum, further research in this area on a larger scale is recommended.