Parental Influence on Children’s Computational Thinking in an Informal Setting (Fundamental Research)

June 28th, 2019 | RESEARCH

Informal learning environments such as science centers and museums are instrumental in the promotion of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. These settings provide children with the chance to engage in self-directed activities that can create a of lifelong interest and persistence in STEM. On the other hand, the presence of parents in these settings allows children the opportunity to work together and engage in conversations that can boost understanding and enhance learning of STEM topics. To date, a considerable amount of research has focused on adult-child dialogue. Findings from those studies revealed that children experience more elaborate scientific thinking when parents are present to help facilitate learning.

Given the need for engineers to have computer science skills, academic discourse has placed emphasis on studying computational thinking (CT) in children. While recent studies focus on the roles parents play on children’s engineering thinking, very limited studies have explored parents’ influence on children’s engagement in CT in informal settings. Therefore, in this study, we investigate the roles that parents play in promoting computational thinking in their young children.

In this study, families of 5-7 years old children were invited to a local science center. The families were asked to interact with an exhibit that is designed to promote engineering and computational thinking in children. To date, we have collected video and audio data from observations of 13 families' interactions with the exhibit. Drawing on previous literature from engineering education and informal science education, a coding scheme was developed with the essential roles that parents play in science centers and museums. The roles include Supervising, Co-learning, Facilitating, Encouragement and Student of the child.

We will conduct a qualitative case study to closely examine child-parent interactions during one portion of the exhibit, an interactive coding game. Additionally, we will use interview data from the observations for more clarifications on how parents facilitated the interactions. The findings of this study will advance our understanding of how parents can support computational thinking while engaging in conversations during engineering activities.



Team Members

Hoda Ehsan, Author, Purdue University
Carson Ohland, Author, Purdue University
Monica Cardella, Principal Investigator, Purdue University


Publication: ASEE 2019 Annual Conference


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: STEM+C
Award Number: 1543175

Related URLs

Integrated STEM and Computing Learning in Formal and Informal Settings for Kindergarten to Grade 2


Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Families | Learning Researchers | Museum | ISE Professionals | Parents | Caregivers | Pre-K Children (0-5)
Discipline: Computing and information science | Engineering
Resource Type: Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: Exhibitions | Museum and Science Center Exhibits

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This material is supported by National Science Foundation award DRL-2229061, with previous support under DRL-1612739, DRL-1842633, DRL-1212803, and DRL-0638981. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations contained within are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of NSF.

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