Reviewing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education

"Reviewing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education: State of Play and Practices from the Field" is a research study commissioned by the EC’s Joint Research Centre (JRC B-4) to investigate how Computational Thinking (CT) is currently positioned within compulsory school education in Europe’s various Member States, as well as outside the EU. Called CompuThink II for short, the study has a specific mandate to update the earlier 2016 JRC report "Developing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education: implications for policy and practice". CompuThink II entails a systematic review of the very latest research findings, policy making and grass-roots initiatives on CT’s positioning within Europe’s compulsory education landscape. So the study will approach this sphere from theoretical, organisational and practical perspectives in the endeavour to spotlight new understandings, developments and emerging trends, bringing them into a sharper critical focus.

What is Computational Thinking and why is it important?

Presently, a wide variety of CT definitions are adopted. In its broadest terms, CT is regarded as a thinking process entailed in designing solutions that can be executed by a computer, a human, or a combination of both. CT is associated both with core concepts, like abstraction, algorithmic thinking, automation, decomposition and generalization, and also with attitudes, skills and practices, e.g. creating computational artefacts, testing and debugging, collaboration, creativity and problem solving. As a transversal skill applicable in multiple education disciplines, it has a crucial role to play in compulsory education. Critically, CT is also acknowledged as a foundational competence individuals need to successfully deal with new societal challenges.

What is Computational Thinking and why is it important?

Indeed, CT is Strategic Priority 2 in the European Commission´s recently published “Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) - Resetting education and training for the digital age” (known as DEAP for short). This makes the CompuThink II study central to EC strategy planning for improving the provision of digital skills and competences, including via high-quality computing/computer science education.

What contribution will CompuThink II make?

CompuThink II contributes to this effort with a set of key activities and outputs carefully drawn up to provide evidence-driven responses to the research questions the study seeks to answer.

What contribution will CompuThink II make?

These undertakings include:

input from leading experts, stakeholders and proponents in CT and compulsory education so as to gain fresh insights and critical feedback;
a comprehensive up-to-date review of both formal research and grey literature;
a survey of policy initiatives for integrating CT in compulsory school curricula across Europe (and beyond);
a set of detailed case studies investigating the ‘how’ and ‘why’ behind the practical integration of CT in compulsory education, with workshops and interviews involving a wide range of experts, actors and stakeholders;
an updated report on CT in compulsory education to be published in collaboration with the JRC;
production of a research paper for publication in a high-standing scientific journal.

To ensure high-quality outputs from all these activities, the study adopts thorough, systematic approaches to data generation, gathering, analysis and reporting. CompuThink II brings together the two main proponents of the earlier 2016 CT study, namely CNR-ITD and European Schoolnet (EUN), who are joined in this current endeavor by the University of Vilnius, Lithuania.

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2016 JRC Report

Developing Computational Thinking in Compulsory Education: implications for policy and practice


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