Date of Conferral

2019

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Education

Advisor

Wade Smith

Abstract

Computer scientists have been working towards a common definition of abstraction; however, the instruction and assessment of abstraction remain categorically underresearched. Because abstraction is often cited as a component of computational thinking, abstraction has been summarily likened to a higher order thinking skill. A broad conceptual framework including philosophy, psychology, constructionism, and computational thinking was aligned with the descriptive qualitative design and guided the literature review and data analysis. This qualitative examination of how teachers determine curriculum, deliver instruction, and design assessments in K-12 computer science education provides insight into best practices and variables for future quantitative study. The instructional strategies, objectives, and assessments of twelve K-12 computer science teachers from 3 states were examined in this descriptive qualitative examination of instruction using thematic coding analysis. The majority of teachers had little to no professional development regarding teaching abstraction. All teachers in the study were unsure what student abstraction abilities should be according to grade level. Teachers’ understanding of abstraction ranged from very little knowledge to very knowledgeable. The majority of teachers did not actively assess abstraction. Teachers described successfully teaching abstraction through multiple instructional practices and spiraling curriculum. Practical descriptive insights illuminate additional variables to research the instruction of abstraction qualitatively and quantitatively, as well as provide anecdotal instructional successes.

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