Date of Award

August 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Human Centered Computing

Committee Member

Victor B. Zordan

Committee Member

Eileen T. Kraemer

Committee Member

Megan Che

Committee Member

Joseph Hollingsworth


This research seeks to introduce concepts for programming, a key element of computing, to K-12students. A central goal is to better understand the bene ts of concept-integrated game mechanics in teaching basic programming concepts. The context of this research is also one of broadening participation. Thus the studies have been conducted in conjunction with two related projects| Boeing Summer coding camps and the NSF Culturally Responsive Computer Science (CR oCS) Project{both of which targeted underrepresented populations in computing with focus on programming. The basic programming concepts considered in this research involve integer and Boolean variables and include assignments, sequencing of assignments, operators, and conditional statements. We created Hbot, a video game with its game mechanics designed to engage and facilitate learning of basic programming concepts. In our experiments, we contrasted Hbot with a prior video game, also one we designed, in which game mechanics were not connected to concepts, but instead included basic programming questions and feedback within gameplay. Experiments were carried out at three middle schools, involving about 60 students split into control and treatment groups. Quantitative results indicate that concept-integrated game mechanics helped improve student performance more across nine out of eleven concept subtopics in programming. Notably, as students gained a mastery of the game mechanics related to the topics, their performance improved generally even as the concepts got more di cult. Qualitative think-aloud data analyses support these quantitative  ndings. Also, instructional video games appear to help students feel more con dent about their understanding of concepts.



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