T. Palts1, M. Pedaste1, V. Vene1, L. Vinikienė2

1University of Tartu (ESTONIA)
2Vilnius University (LITHUANIA)
In the modernizing world, computer science has become an important part of many disciplines and thinking computationally has become an essential skill for everyone. In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in developing computational thinking (CT) already in a comprehensive school level. Wing has defined computational thinking as “the thought processes involved in formulating problems and their solutions so that the solutions are represented in a form that can be effectively carried out by an information processing agent” [1]. Developing CT systematically includes incorporating thought processes that utilize abstraction, decomposition, algorithmic design, evaluation, and generalizations [2]. Bebras informatics competition tasks have been suggested as part of an instrument to assess those five skills of CT, but their alignment with this framework has not been previously empirically tested [3]. Goal of this study is to test empirically, which processes of CT from the Bebras informatics competition results are well distinguishable. Although five factors were expected to describe five processes of computational thinking from the original processes assessed in Bebras competition, the confirmatory factor analysis did not support that theory. Therefore, exploratory factor analysis with principal axis factoring was used with the Varimax with Kaiser normalization. Results from 9700 participants of the Bebras informatics competition, at the age of 12–14, show emerging two main factors, which can be characterized as algorithmic design (includes mainly tasks of algorithmic patterns and decomposition) and pattern recognition (includes mainly tasks of abstraction, generalization and evaluation). Tasks describing the factors are presented in the paper. As Bebras competition tasks are rather complex by usually integrating various processes of CT, it leads to the idea for the future work of deconstructing the tasks by forming new smaller, but more skill specific tasks. As there is the lack of systematic approach to assess development of the skills of CT, this work contributes to that topic.

[1] Wing JM. Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM. 2006 Mar 1; 49(3): 33-5.
[2] Selby C, Woollard J. Computational thinking: the developing definition.
[3] Dagienė V, Sentance S. It’s Computational thinking! Bebras tasks in the curriculum. InInternational Conference on Informatics in Schools: Situation, Evolution, and Perspectives 2016 Oct 13 (pp. 28-39). Springer International Publishing.