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Computational thinking
Unplugged activities
Unplugged pedagogies
Issue Date: 
Office of Education Research, National Institute of Education, Singapore
Looi, C.-K., Wu, L., Seow, P., & Huang, W. (2020). Researching and developing pedagogies using unplugged and computational thinking approaches for teaching computing in the schools. National Institute of Education (Singapore), Office of Education Research.
In 2017, Singapore’s Ministry of Education implemented a new GCE ‘O’ Level Computing curriculum. The new curriculum is a distinct shift from the teaching students on the use of software technology to the development of Computational Thinking skills and programming competencies. Computing thinking skills are associated with problem solving, reasoning and logic skills that all students should develop. As Singapore moves to implement a new curriculum with a greater emphasis on the development of computational thinking and programming, the following are some of the challenges that must be addressed:

1. Teachers’ Pedagogical Knowledge in teaching Computing
2. Teachers’ Competency and Knowledge on Computational Thinking

This project has a focus on using and integrating the unplugged approach as introductory activities for teaching computing as a pedagogy. It focuses on helping students to understand concepts in Computational Thinking. The approach also fits very well to the teaching and learning environment in a typical secondary school classroom. We worked with the teachers from collaborating schools to design and co-design unplugged activities, observed how they enacted the lessons in the classroom. This would help us to understand how teachers interpret computational thinking and adapt the unplugged approaches with their teaching practice. Also, we would like to study students' learning outcomes as a result of the teaching.

The existing practice and research of unplugged teaching has the following problems:
1. There is no systematic integration. Among the many topics in computing, there are not many topics that match unplugged activities.
2. For the first-line teachers, the available public accessible resources do not help much. It can only be used when they encounter related topics. Even if there are corresponding resources on the Internet, many teachers are not keen on adopting unplugged teaching methods, due to the time and effort needed to prepare and to enact the lessons.
3. The existing unplugged teaching resources are designed with the goal of mobilizing students' interest and engagement, and more in-depth practice and research in transiting from teaching with unplugged methods to programming is needed.

The purposes of this proposed research study are the following:
• Develop and evaluate pedagogies linked to teaching CT. We introduce teaching unplugged as an effective student-centered approach to introducing computing concepts without the use of computers, and then we design follow-up activities and pedagogies that move students forward in the crucial computational experiences.
• Assess the effect on teachers. Teachers’ pedagogical content knowledge will be assessed to understand the level they started with, and the level they would have attained after the workshops and teaching in class. Classroom observations will be held to study the teachers’ enactment of computing lessons. We want to understand the territory of teachers’ dispositions for, attitudes toward and stereotypes concerning CT and Computing.
• Assess the effect on students. Students’ work will be analysed to assess their level of comprehension and application of computing concepts, and this will be done through prior experience surveys, pre-post computing perceptions survey, pre-post computing tests, quizzes and computing assignments. These are steps towards developing an assessment framework for CT.
Project number: 
OER 04/16 LCK
Grant ID: 
Education Research Funding Programme (ERFP)
Funding Agency: 
Ministry of Education, Singapore
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