Practicing Formative Assessment for Computational Thinking in Making Environments

  • Roxana HadadEmail author
  • Kate Thomas
  • Mila Kachovska
  • Yue Yin


Making activities and environments have been shown to foster the development of computational thinking (CT) skills for students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subject areas. To properly cultivate CT skills and the related dispositions, educators must understand students’ needs and build awareness of how CT informs a deeper understanding of the academic content area. “Assessing Computational Thinking in Maker Activities” (ACTMA) is a design-based research study that developed a curricular unit around physics, making, and CT. The project in this paper studied how instructors could use formative assessment to uncover students’ prior knowledge and improve their use of CT. This study aims to provide a qualitative analysis of one lesson in the unit implementation of an informal makerspace environment that strived to be culturally responsive. The study examined “moments of notice,” or instances where formative assessment could guide students’ understanding of CT. We found elements in the establishment of a classroom culture that can generate a continual use of informal formative assessment between instructors and students. This culture includes using materials in conjunction with the promotion of CT concepts and dispositions, focusing on drawing for understanding, the practice of debugging, and fluidity of roles in the learning space.


Computational thinking Physics Engineering STEM k12 Assessment Formative assessment Makerspaces Maker movement 



We would like to thank the students and mentors who participated in the study for the time and effort they dedicated.

Funding Information

Research on this project was developed with support from the National Science Foundation (1543124). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants and/or Animals

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Northeastern Illinois UniversityChicagoUSA
  3. 3.Become, Inc.ChicagoUSA
  4. 4.University of Illinois at ChicagoChicagoUSA

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