Date of Award

Summer 2020

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Department

Educational Studies

First Advisor

William Morris

Abstract

The purpose of this action research was to evaluate the implementation of making experiences to support computational thinking through the development of makerspaces for fifth grade students at an elementary school in South Carolina. This action research explored the following three central questions: (1) To what extent did the implementation of a makerspace improve computational thinking skills for fifth grade students at an elementary school in South Carolina?, (2) How did these students' perceptions of using computational thinking as a problem solving method change based on makerspace experiences? and (3) How did their problem solving skills change through the use of computational thinking in makerspaces?

The innovation for my action research was the implementation of a makerspace to support computational thinking skills across five weekly design challenges. Sixteen student-participants took part in this study. Quantitative data was collected through preand postintervention assessment results using the computational thinking skills (CTS) survey developed by Korkmaz, Cakir, and Ozden (2015). Qualitative data was collected through observations, semi-structured focus group interviews, and participant artifacts. Data was analyzed by incorporating a mixed methods approach using a paired sample ttest for the pre- and postassessments, and an inductive thematic analysis of the qualitative data using the constant comparative method. Five themes evolved from the data: 1) developing problem solving skills, 2) effective tinkering and makerspace approaches as a method of thinking, 3) implementing computational thinking skills, (4) improving motivation and perseverance, and (5) developing effective communication, teamwork and collaboration skills.

Findings indicate that the development of a makerspace improved problem solving through effective making approaches. Students were able to demonstrate effective tinkering characteristics alongside the use of the design thinking process in increasingly complex ways. Implications of findings for integrating computational thinking into makerspace learning and for future research are discussed. Limitations of this study included the study design, the participant population, and my possible influence as a participant observer.

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