EU Science Hub

The Computational Thinking Study

Computational thinking (CT) is a shorthand for “thinking as a computer scientist”, i.e. the ability to use the concepts of computer science to formulate and solve problems. Computational thinking has been promoted in recent years as a skill or competence that is as fundamental as numeracy and literacy. Despite the high interest in developing CT among schoolchildren and the large public and private investment in CT initiatives, there are a number of issues and challenges for the integration of CT in the school curricula.

More evidence-based research is needed to gain further understanding on the following aspects:

  • How can we define CT as a key 21st century competence for schoolchildren?
  • What are the core concepts and skills of CT?
  • What is the relationship with programming/coding in compulsory education?
  • What is the relationship with digital literacy/digital competence?
  • How should teachers be trained to effectively integrate CT in their teaching practice?
  • Should CT be addressed within a specific subject (e.g., CS), integrated in STEM, or treated as a cross-curriculum topic?
  • What does it mean to assess CT?
  • What is needed to further the CT agenda in compulsory education settings?

The study “An analysis of educational approaches to developing Computational Thinking (CompuThink)” aims to provide a comprehensive overview of recent research findings and grass root and policy initiatives for developing CT as a 21st century competence among primary/secondary students, as well as major implications for policy and practice.

The CompuThink study is designed and funded by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission, carried out by the Institute for Educational Technology of the Italian National Research Council (ITD-CNR) and the European Schoolnet (EUN).

The overall approach and main components of the CompuThink study is depicted in the figure below.

CompuThink Overall Approach

The CompuThink study is a forward looking exploration that can contribute to the debate on coding and transversal skills and competences at European and MS level. It also links with the JRC studies on Digital Competence for learners (DigComp), teachers (DigCompTeach) and schools (DigCompOrg).


Publications and external references

Bocconi, S., Chioccariello, A., Dettori, G., Ferrari, A., Engelhardt, K., (2016).
Developing computational thinking in compulsory education - Implications for policy and practice
JRC Science for Policy Report, edited by P. Kampylis, P. and Y. Punie. EUR 28295 EN; doi:10.2791/792158.
Bocconi, S., Chioccariello, A., Dettori, G., Ferrari, A., Engelhardt, K., Kampylis, P. and Punie,Y. (2016).
Exploring the Field of computational Thinking as a 21st Century Skill
In L. Gómez Chova, A. López Martínez, & I. C. Torres (Eds.), EDULEARN16 Proceedings (pp. 4725-4733). IATED Academy. The slide presentation
Bocconi, S., Chioccariello, A., Dettori, G., Ferrari, A., Engelhardt, K., Kampylis, P. and Punie,Y.,  (2016).
Developing Computational Thinking: Approaches and Orientation in K-12 Education
In G. Veletsianos (Ed.), EdMedia 2016 Proceedings (pp. 13-18). Vancouver, Canada: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).