Peer tutoring of computer programming increases exploratory behavior in children
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de la Hera, Diego P.
Zanoni, María B.
There is growing interest in teaching computer science and programming skills in schools. Here we investigated the efficacy of peer tutoring, which is known to be a useful educational resource in other domains but never before has been examined in such a core aspect of applied logical thinking in children. We compared (a) how children (N = 42, age range = 7 years 1 month to 8 years 4 months) learn computer programming from an adult versus learning from a peer and (b) the effect of teaching a peer versus simply revising what has been learned. Our results indicate that children taught by a peer showed comparable overall performance— a combination of accuracy and response times—to their classmates taught by an adult. However, there was a speed–accuracy trade-off, and peer-taught children showed more exploratory behavior, with shorter response times at the expense of lower accuracy. In contrast, no tutor effects (i.e., resulting from teaching a peer) were found. Thus, our results provide empirical evidence in support of peer tutoring as a way to help teach computer programming to children. This could contribute to the promotion of a widespread understanding of how computers operate and how to shape them, which is essential to our values of democracy, plurality, and freedom.