Date of Award

6-2019

Degree Name

MS in Computer Science

Department

Computer Science

Advisor

Zoë Wood

Abstract

Computer Science is an increasingly important topic in K-12 education. Ever since the "computing crisis" of the early 2000s, where enrollment in CS dropped by over half in a five year span, increasing research has gone into improving and broadening enrollment in CS courses. Research shows the importance of introducing CS at a young age and the need for more exposure for younger children and young adults alike in order to work towards equity in the field. While there are many reasons for disinterest in CS courses, studies found one reason young adults do not want to study CS is a perception of it being tedious and lacking opportunities for creativity. Making more creative assignments is one way to try and engage more students who may not feel like stereotypical computer scientists.

This thesis focuses in on the effects of creative choice in CS curriculum on students' self-efficacy, engagement/preferences, and performance. It aims to capture the effects of creative choice on a range of K-12 students of varying demographics in order to make CS more accessible for everyone. The first half of the thesis experimentally validates the effects of creative choice in existing 5th grade CS classes. We created two variants of worksheets for the students - creative worksheets and rigid worksheets. After distributing these worksheets, surveys, and quizzes, we found students still feel a sense of ownership with limited versions of creative choice and benefit from a blend of creative and rigid instructions. In addition, student performance was not affected by our different treatments. The second half of the thesis adapted and launched the fifth grade curriculum to a new demographic, teaching the course to Juvenile Hall students. Student surveys and reports from their teacher showed this class had a positive impact and was well received by students and staff. We found students would prefer a longer class next iteration, as this one only extended five weeks. Future work will be needed to experimentally evaluate the specific impact of creative choice in this new demographic.

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