Neil Rickus

Thesis Title: How can teachers use video games to support primary students to develop their understanding of programming concepts when studying computer science?

Abstract: Commercial video games primarily designed for entertainment can be used within computer science (CS) education to introduce primary students to programming concepts. CS is recognised as essential to students’ education, although there is concern around the challenges pupils face when learning to program. Commercially developed video games have been shown to increase engagement and improve attitudes towards computing, with carefully selected games having the potential to support students in developing their understanding of programming concepts through connecting abstract concepts with concrete elements within games, which can be implemented within their own programs. The majority of CS education research focuses on older students, with limited evidence available for effective approaches to teaching primary aged children, which this research aims to address.

The enablers and challenges for students when introducing programming concepts will initially be examined. Commercial video games will be studied to determine how they can create the conditions for learning to introduce primary students to programming concepts, along with how teachers can develop understanding through pedagogical approaches used to harness the affordances of video games. This research employs an exploratory case study methodology to facilitate a detailed investigation through discussions with students and teachers, analysis of programs produced by students and lesson observations.

Primary Supervisors: Dr Peter Kemp

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Publications: Rickus, N. 2023. Computing. In Majid, N. (ed) Essential Subject Knowledge for Primary Teaching. London: Learning Matters

Rickus, N. 2017. Computing curriculum: New opportunities for communication and collaboration. In Jones D. & Hodson P. ed. Unlocking Speaking and Listening: Developing Spoken Language in the Primary Classroom (Unlocking Series). 3rd edition. Routledge: Abingdon

Pathway: Pathway 6: EMS

Cohort: 2023-24