Grover, S., Jackiw, N., & Lundh, P. (2019). Concepts before coding: The importance of classroom milieu and activity design for student engagement with computer science concepts. Computer Science Education, 29, 106-135. https://doi.org/10.1080/08993408.2019.1568955
Learners struggle with conceptual understanding of introductory programming concepts such as variables, expressions, and loops. We examine whether and how designed activities for conceptual exploration support preliminary engagement with and learning of foundational and often hard-to-grasp programming concepts for students in grades 6–8. Drawing on principles from dynamic mathematics, we developed a suite of non-programming digital and unplugged activities embedded in a curriculum before students engage in Scratch block-based programming. We conducted empirical research in three middle school classrooms in diverse urban US schools and examined student performance through mixed qualitative and quantitative methods.