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Supporting Computer Science Engagement and Learning Through Reflective, Process-Based Portfolio Assessments

Tue, April 21, 8:15 to 9:45am, Virtual Room


Assessments of student engagement with CS and learning of computational concepts and practices often use written tests and surveys (Litts et al., 2017). An alternative are process-based portfolios that allow students to showcase their own learning and promote reflections on their insights and problems. While portfolios are more common in arts and maker education (Chang et al. 2015), we argue they also can have a place in computer science classrooms promoting computational communication and reflection (Lui et al, 2019). In our study we analyze portfolios from a widespread implementation of an electronic textiles curriculum to examine the ways in which students expressed new narratives and demonstrated learning with CS.

A situated perspective of learning informs our research: where learning and identification are intertwined, based on practices interpreted and responded to in the moment and reified over time in community (e.g., Wenger, 1999). From this perspective, both developing positive self-narratives of identity with CS and engaging in practices associated with deeper competence in the CS domain are important to long-term participation (Fields & Enyedy, 2013). Assessments that promote students’ development of their own narratives, integrated with evidence of their learning, may be one way to broaden and deepen participation in CS.

The portfolios analyzed in this poster were part of the cumulative assignment of a 10-12 week e-textiles unit implemented in 15 different classrooms in two large, metropolitan school districts. Data included all available portfolios (n=225 portfolios; 15 classrooms) completed by students at the end of the e-textiles unit. Using a two-step open coding process on a random selection of portfolios (Charmaz, 2002), we developed a set of thematic codes capturing computational thinking practices and students’ self-narratives about their own learning in CS. We then established interrater agreement with an acceptable intraclass correlation coefficient = 0.75; p<.001 across five researchers who then proceeded to code all remaining portfolios.

Almost every student (96%) explicitly reflected on their learning and growth. Within these reflections, the large majority of students (89%) associated their improved CS learning with specific “hard” skills such as writing code and making circuits but also crafting. Other things students mentioned involved improved ability to plan (14%), seeing a future in CS (13%), and embracing mistakes as a normal part of CS (11%). In terms of the computational practices, nearly all students articulated specific changes they made to their projects (and why they made them) or identified problems (and solutions) that they implemented such as naming, isolating, testing, and solving problems. Being explicit about changes made and problems encountered are all important practices required of students to move deeper in CS.

In this scaled-up implementation of an e-textiles curriculum, we demonstrated the utility of portfolios for allowing personal identity development through narratives of learning that students authored as well as meta-reflections on problem solving, iterative design & testing, and related computational practices core to learning CS. As an assessment, these types of portfolios showed potential for furthering both learning and engagement in CS.