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Engineering and Computational Thinking Talent in Middle School Students: A Framework for Defining and Recognizing Student Affinities


"In this paper we describe our process for synthesizing frameworks for recognizing student talents in the areas of Computational Thinking (CT) and Engineering Design (ED) from prior research. Computer science education research has resulted in multiple, overlapping definitions of CT as an approach towards solving problems using methods and tools that are derived from computer science. Our development of operationalized definitions of CT talent for middle school educators is focused on uniting models for CT in a simplified structure. Our ED definition framework builds on multiple distinct models of the engineering design process along with concepts from systems engineering models and the design thinking process. We operationalize these frameworks to provide teachers with metrics and examples for recognizing and assessing the CT and ED skills of their students in non-technical classes. By training teachers to evaluate students' processes from the perspective of an engineer and computer scientist, teachers are more able to help their STEM-inclined students recognize the alignments between their own talents and possible careers. Through the analysis of teacher surveys and interviews from 19 classroom implementations, we evaluated the changes that the Arts & Bots program has had on teacher perceptions of student CT and ED skills and talents."