EXAMINING PROBLEM-SOLVING SKILLS USING TASKS REQUIRING COMPUTATIONAL THINKING
Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania (ROMANIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 14th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 8-9 November, 2021
Location: Online Conference
Abstract:Within problem solving, the assessment of computational thinking ability has been one of the much researched areas of the last decade. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the circumstances of the forced online education have further emphasized the importance of competences. The pandemic has drawn attention to the fact that not only computer scientists but everybody needs to acquire knowledge that will make them open to a new approach to problems inspired by computational thinking.
In our research, we examined the level at which the first-year students (N = 127) of Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania possess the ability to solve complex problems. Our goal was not only to determine whether the students had acquired knowledge and problem-solving strategies related to certain disciplines, but also to determine whether they are able to transfer their previous knowledge and whether they recognize what knowledge they need to interpret life-like, specific problems to solve.
To measure the level of development of the ability, a worksheet was compiled. The tasks measured computational thinking within the problem solving and were independent of expertise and applications, but they clearly had an algorithmic background. Their solution included elements of algorithms such as topological sorting, cryptography process, parallel computing and constraints. The group of students was divided into two parts, according to the field of study: engineering and humanities undergraduate students.
Outcome data reflect students’ high school preparation for problem solving. As expected, engineering students performed far better in recognizing, understanding, and correcting algorithms in tasks than humanities students. The 50% average score of humanities students suggests that more focused attention needs to be paid to skills development not only at the tertiary level but also at the secondary level. The result of the survey also shed light on the extent to which knowledge transfer is realized among students, and the extent to which they can apply knowledge related to a given context in several different environments.
The long-term goal can be to prepare students for the new expectations in education: cognitive skills need to be developed to help apply knowledge in new situations, that is, to transfer it from one context to another.
Keywords: Problem-solving, computational thinking, knowledge transfer, first-year students.