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


Lechen Zhang, DSV


Matti Tedre, University of Eastern Finland


Jalal Nouri, DSV


Kicki Skog, MND/SU



Computational Thinking (CT) has an increasing presence in compulsory education worldwide, and programming has been considered as an appropriate and standard way of delivering CT. Particularly, block-based programming languages (BBPLs), such as Scratch, have successfully attracted an enormous amount of young users and prevailed in the classrooms in the past decade. Much of the success can be attributed to the BBPLs’ affordances, i.e., media-rich and syntax hassle-free. In the recent computing education reforms taking place globally, Sweden has revised its compulsory curriculum to include CT and programming. The new Swedish curriculum mandates that CT and programming should be incorporated primarily under Mathematics and Technology, effective from July 2018. However, dilemmas and challenges arise at the occasion of this education reform. Unfortunately, compulsory school teachers may not be equipped with adequate CT competence to implement the new curriculum. Historically, CT and programming have never been a part of teacher training, nor the focus for professional development. This raised the question of to what extent teachers can integrate a subject with limited competence in that subject. Therefore, this dissertation was dedicated to investigating the integration process of CT and programming into Swedish compulsory education from the teachers’ perspective. Specifically speaking, it scrutinized two essential aspects of the integration: the CT skills taught and assessed by the teachers with a BBPL and the teachers’ CT competence.

This study conducted a case study to probe the integration process. The case study was carried out within a national research and development project aiming to enhance compulsory school teachers’ CT competence and pedagogical skills of programming. Multiple sources of data were collected, triangulated, and analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The key findings are summarized as follows. Firstly, it validated and extended a CT framework detailing the CT skills that can be acquired through BBPLs. Secondly, the study revealed the CT skills teachers have included in their instruction and assessment, as well as the learning and teaching difficulties encountered.  It further proposed a learning progression of the CT skills for young learners. Thirdly, the study compared the CT skills listed in the validated framework and the ones that have been taught and assessed by the teachers. The differences yielded by the comparison implied the teachers’ limited CT and programming proficiency.  Finally, the study constructed a CT test and systematically surveyed the teachers’ CT competence. It even investigated the relationship between teachers’ background and their CT competence.

The significance of this study is manifold and unique. The study examined and evaluated important aspects of the CT and programming integration in Swedish compulsory education as a primary contribution. To the author’s best knowledge, no previous research has provided insights into this matter since the new curriculum went into effect. Hence, this study, for the first time, updates the stakeholders, namely, teachers, students, parents, school management, and policy-makers, with valuable specifics of the integration, especially when the teachers who participated in the study can be considered geographically representative of the country. Furthermore, this work contributes to the establishment of the knowledge body regarding in-service teachers in CT education research, as relevant studies have been scarce. By focusing on what teachers chose to teach and their competence in CT, this study brings the teachers’ perspective to the fore. Additionally, this research is of practical implications. Due to the nature of case studies, the findings in this study can be directly applied in practice, such as planning instructions and designing assessments, pinpointing the areas for improvement, and directing future professional development.