Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Dr. David W. Stinson

Second Advisor

Dr. Christine Thomas

Third Advisor

Dr. Audrey Leroux

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Christina Gardner-McCune


Computational thinking (CT) is being advocated as core knowledge needed by all students—particularly, students from underrepresented groups—to prepare for the 21st century (Georgia Department of Education, 2017; Smith, 2016, 2017; The White House, 2017; Wing, 2006, 2014). The K–12 Computer Science Frameworks (2016), written by a national steering committee, defines CT as “the thought processes involved in expressing solutions as computational steps or algorithms that can be carried out by a computer” (p. 68).

This project investigated current national introductory CT curricula and their related programming platforms used in high schools. In particular, the study documents the development, implementation, and quantitative outcomes of a purposeful introductory CT curriculum framed by an eclectic theoretical perspective (Stinson, 2009) that included culturally relevant pedagogy and critical play through a computational music remixing platform known as EarSketch. This purposeful introductory CT curriculum, designed toward engaging African American high school students, was implemented with a racially diverse set of high school students to quantitatively measure their engagement and CT content knowledge change. The goal of the project was to increase engagement and CT content knowledge of all student participants, acknowledging that what benefits African American students tends to benefit all students (Hilliard, 1992; Ladson-Billings, 2014).

An analysis of the findings suggests that there was a significant increase in student cognitive engagement for racially diverse participants though not for the subset of African American students. Affective and conative engagement did not significantly change for racially diverse participants nor for the African American student subset.

However, both the racially diverse set of students’ and their subset of African American students’ CT content knowledge significantly increased. As well, there was no significant difference between African American students and non-African American students post-survey engagement and CT content knowledge post-assessment means when adjusted for their pre-survey engagement and pre-assessment knowledge respectively. Hence, showing that purposeful music mixing using EarSketch designed toward African American students benefitted a racially diverse set of students in cognitive engagement and CT content knowledge and the African American subset of students in CT content knowledge. Implications and recommendations for further study are discussed.


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