Effects of interactive unplugged programming activities on computational thinking skills and student engagement in elementary education

Qi LI, Qiang JIANG*, Jyh-Chong LIANG*, Weiyan XIONG, Yu LIANG, Wei ZHAO

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Different instructional strategies have been drawn to assist elementary school students in improving computational thinking (CT) skills and student engagement (SE) in unplugged programming activities. This paper aimed to explore how the interactive strategies of unplugged programming affect CT skills and SE. The study was conducted based on a quasi-experimental research method. The sample was composed of 104 sixth-grade students from northern China. The students in the experimental group learned with interactive unplugged programming, whereas those in the control group learned with non-interactive unplugged programming. Analysis of Covariance statistics and Partial Least Squares Structural Equation Modeling were adopted for data analysis. Results showed that the performance of the experimental group in CT skills and SE was considerably better than that of the control group. Moreover, the predictive relationships were more complex between CT skills and SE in the experimental group. In general, these findings confirmed the teaching value of interactive unplugged programming, and further emphasized the important role of students’ CT skills in programming engagement. Therefore, through the application of interaction in instruction design, each student can be assigned a positive role to create a programming classroom that is more conducive to students.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12293-12318
Number of pages26
JournalEducation and Information Technologies
Issue number9
Early online date9 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was also supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Project Approval # 62077012).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Computational thinking skills
  • Interactive unplugged programming
  • Partial least squares structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM)
  • Student engagement
  • Unplugged programming


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