Assessing programming concepts in the visual block-based programming course for primary school students

Siu Cheung KONG, Yiqing Pinko WANG

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The present study aimed to investigate primary school students' achievement in programming concepts after 6-month learning of Scratch programming and 6-month learning of App Inventor programming. A test of programming concepts was developed based on the evidence-centered approach to assess students' progression. Online tests were administered to 1678 grade-5 students in class with the help of teachers. Students were given 30 minutes for each test before and after the programming course. Based on partial matrix sampling method, three test forms were created with 5 common anchoring items to reduce students' burden of completing the full test form developed for this study. The unidimensional dichotomous Rasch model was therefore employed for calculating students' ability scores. Results suggested that the test is valid for measuring programming concepts according to the mean-square fit statistics and other fit indices. Paired sample t-test was conducted to evaluate students' progression based on the ability scores. Results of the study showed that the programming course is effective as students made significant improvement upon course completion. In addition, group differences in gender and perceived competence (low vs medium vs high) were further explored with independent sample t-test. Results showed no significant gender differences regarding students' progression. In other words, boys and girls had similar initial levels of programming ability scores and rates of improvement regarding programming concepts. Results further revealed some interesting group patterns that boys with medium levels of perceived competence and girls with low levels of perceived competence show the most rapid improvement, indicating the course influenced different groups of students to different extents. Findings of this study shed light on the importance of visual block-based programming as a means for fostering programming concepts among primary school students. Educational policymakers should refer to the findings and propose policies to support programming education so that students can establish a solid foundation of programming concepts for the development of computational thinking. Copyright © 2019 The Authors. All Rights Reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 18th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2019
EditorsRikke ØRNGREEN, Mie BUHL, Bente MEYER
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
ISBN (Print)9781912764426
Publication statusPublished - 2019



Kong, S.-C., & Wang, Y.-Q. (2019). Assessing programming concepts in the visual block-based programming course for primary school students. In R. Ørngreen, M. Buhl, & B. Meyer (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2019 (pp. 294-302). UK: Academic Conferences and Publishing International.


  • App inventor programming
  • Primary school students
  • Programming concepts
  • Programming education
  • Scratch programming
  • Visual block-based programming