Peter Parnes, Luleå tekniska universitet

Main Supervisor:

Jalal Nouri, DSV


Kicki Skog, Stockholms universitet


Integrating Computational Thinking into Swedish Compulsory Education with Block-Based Programming: A case study from the perspective of teachers



Computational thinking (CT) is increasingly widespread in compulsory education worldwide, and programming is considered to be an appropriate and standard way of delivering CT. In particular, block-based programming languages (BBPLs) such as Scratch have successfully attracted an enormous amount of young users and have begun to predominate in classrooms over the past decade. Much of this success can be attributed to the features of BBPLs, such as their media-rich environment and straightforward syntax. As part of the recent computing education reforms taking place globally, Sweden has revised its compulsory curriculum to include CT and programming. This new Swedish curriculum mandates that CT and programming should be incorporated primarily in the areas of mathematics and technology, effective from July 2018. However, dilemmas and challenges arise from this educational reform. Compulsory school teachers may not be equipped with adequate CT competence to implement the new curriculum, and CT and programming have not historically formed part of teacher training, and have not been the focus of professional development. This raises questions over the extent to which teachers with limited competence in a subject can integrate it into lessons. This dissertation is therefore dedicated to investigating the integration process of CT and programming into Swedish compulsory education from the perspective of teachers. More specifically, it scrutinizes two essential aspects of integration: the CT skills that are taught and assessed by the teachers using a BBPL, and the teachers’ CT competence.

A case study was conducted to probe the integration process. This was carried out as part of a national research and development project aiming to enhance compulsory school teachers’ CT competence and pedagogical skills in programming. Multiple sources of data were collected, triangulated, and analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The key findings can be summarized as follows. Firstly, the CT framework was examined and extended to describe the CT skills that can be acquired through BBPLs. Secondly, the CT skills included by teachers in their instruction and assessment were identified, as well as the learning and teaching difficulties that are encountered. A learning progression for CT skills for young learners was also proposed. Thirdly, the CT skills listed in the examined framework were compared with those taught and assessed by the teachers. The differences yielded by this comparison implied that the teachers had limited CT and programming proficiency.  Finally, a CT test was constructed and the teachers’ CT competence was systematically surveyed. In addition, the relationship between a teacher’s background and CT competence was investigated.

The significance of this study is manifold and unique. The primary contribution is an examination and evaluation of the most important aspects of the integration of CT and programming into Swedish compulsory education. To the best of the author’s knowledge, no previous research has provided insights into this matter since the new curriculum went into effect. Hence, this study is the first to update the stakeholders (namely teachers, students, parents, school management, and policy makers) with valuable and specific details of this integration. Furthermore, this work contributes to the establishment of a body of knowledge regarding in-service teachers in CT education research, since studies of this topic have been scarce. By focusing on what teachers choose to teach and their competence in CT, their perspective is brought to the fore. Due to the nature of case studies, the findings in this study can be directly applied in practice, such as when planning instructions and designing assessments, pinpointing areas for improvement, and directing future professional development.


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