To Scratch or not to Scratch?! A controlled experiment comparing plugged first and unplugged first programming lessons

Felienne Hermans, Efthimia Aivaloglou

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeConference contributionScientificpeer-review


Programming education is in fashion: there are many methods, tools, books and apps to teach children programming. This gives rise to the question of how to teach programming. Do we teach the concepts with or without the use of a computer, also called plugged and unplugged respectively? This paper aims to measure what method is more effective to start with: plugged or unplugged first. Specifically, we are interested in examining which method is better in terms of (1) facilitating understanding of programming concepts, (2) motivating and supporting the students' sense of self-efficacy in programming tasks and (3) motivating the students to explore and use programming constructs in their assignments. To this end we conduct a controlled study with 35 elementary school children, in which half of the children receive four plugged lessons and the other half receives four unplugged lessons After this, both groups receive four weeks of Scratch lessons. The results show that after eight weeks there was no difference between the two groups in their mastering of programming concepts. However, the group that started with unplugged lessons was more confident of their ability to understand the concepts, i.e. demonstrated better self-efficacy beliefs. Furthermore, the children in the unplugged first group used a wider selection of Scratch blocks.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWiPSCE'17 Proceedings of the 12th Workshop on Primary and Secondary Computing Education
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-4503-5428-8
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2017
EventWiPSCE 2017: The 12th Workshop in Primary and Secondary Computing Education - Nijmegen, Netherlands
Duration: 8 Nov 201710 Nov 2017


ConferenceWiPSCE 2017
Internet address


  • programming education
  • Scratch
  • unplugged


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