Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Instructional Technology and Learning Sciences

Committee Chair(s)

Sheri Haderlie


Sheri Haderlie


Breanne Litts


Gilberto Urroz


We live in a century in which technology has become part of our lives, and it is crucial that we become active creators and not merely passive users of technology. One characteristic that might distinguish someone who uses the ideas of others from one who innovates his own ideas is the ability to computer program. Computer programming is more than just learning how to code; it also exposes students to computational thinking (CT), which involves problem-solving using computer science (CS) concepts, such as decomposition, pattern recognition, abstraction, and algorithm design.

The rationale for introducing computing in K-12 in order to advance CT is compelling. While currently the need to introduce CT skills is prioritized at the high school level, there is a growing belief among researchers that CS experiences need to start at an earlier age. This study examines the elements of CT found in the projects of 7th- and 8th- grade students. Specifically, I used Dr. Scratch to examine whether there were patterns in the students’ computational thinking skills. In order to explore the elements of CT found in the students’ Scratch projects, datasets of 360 student projects from a publicly available repository of projects on the Scratch website were analyzed.

The results from the study suggested that there were specific similarities and differences between the seventh- and eighth-grade CT skills. The results also highlighted affordances and constraints of Dr. Scratch as a CT tool and addressed the challenges of analyzing Scratch projects from young learners. Recommendations are offered to researchers and educators about how they might use Scratch data to help improve students’ CT skills.