Assessing Students’ Computational Thinking Application in Core Subject Areas
Computational thinking (CT) is becoming widely recognized by educators as a powerful tool students can use in learning across all subject areas — science, language arts, mathematics, and social studies — rather than exclusively associated with computer science.
Teachers that are implementing CT integration are more frequently defining CT as a metacognitive strategy that deepens learning opportunities and helps students think systematically about their problem-solving approaches. Because the emphasis of CT integration is on providing students with metacognitive strategies and less of a focus on stand-alone content based in coding, it’s also being seen as a possible mechanism for improving student achievement on assessments in core subject areas. We are seeing this to be especially the case in elementary classrooms. However, unlike most subject-area assessment practices, there is an emerging trend of teachers shifting away from using standardized assessments and instead creating their own, individualized assessment practices that examine student mastery of CT within subject areas.
Over the past three years, funded by the Robin Hood Learning + Technology Fund, my colleagues and I have been documenting the pathways, practices, and other educational efforts of over 20 high-poverty elementary schools in New York City in an effort to develop clear models of effective school-wide CT integration. In this work, we routinely ask educators to explain why they believe CT is important for students to learn, how they envision students using CT in core subject work, and what their practices are for assessing evidence of CT knowledge and application.
We often hear educators express that their primary concern with integrating CT into subjects is taking time away from test preparation. However, after spending at least one full school year integrating CT, the majority of participating educators interviewed saw evidence of CT integration as having a positive impact in their students’ learning. Teachers described it as a mechanism for encouraging collaboration, fostering persistence and a growth mindset, helping to address a targeted area that students typically struggled with. For example, a participating teacher stated, “[In the beginning,] I didn’t see [CT] in…