Exploration of 'playful paired-collaboration' in computer science: a design-based research study


Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This doctoral study explores the use of playful collaborative learning in computer science. The researcher undertook a pilot and an iterative main study, using a design-based research method, through which to investigate a fresh approach for teaching computer science to secondary age students (11-16). The design was realised through collaboration with school-based colleagues, resulting in a responsive sequence of lessons, each evaluated and adapted. An explorative picture was drawn of the students' experience through live observation, and through analysis of audio data. It was expected that the approach would capitalise on the benefits of play and collaboration as described by the influential theorists Bruner (1976) and Mercer (2007). The initial framework for the analysis was based on Mercer's 'sociocultural discourse analysis' to evaluate collaboration, and on a qualitative analysis of the presence of 'play' as defined by Bruner (1976).
Close analysis of the recorded transcripts of the students' paired discussions, however, revealed little exploratory talk and the type of ‘play' present did not often conform to Bruner's specific characteristics. It was instead frequently humorous or 'ludic'. This suggested a need for further elaboration of types of play, beyond Bruner's categories. Moreover, thematic analysis of the collaboration between the teachers engaged in the design and ongoing evaluation of the sessions suggested a tension between the teachers' personal pedagogy of play and their professional performance in the classroom. This tension influenced the extent to which playful and collaborative learning could be designed for. The tension is particularly marked in a phenomenon here newly named as 'play-stops', which occur when a student embarking on a playful episode is diverted back to the 'task' in hand by a fellow student or a teacher.
A number of approaches for further developing and nurturing knowledge of computer science are articulated in the latter phase of the thesis. These recommendations respect the restrictions of contemporary computer science education while also valuing a contemporary playful pedagogy that understands the need for time, space and personal motivation to be developed and shared with the students.
Date of Award23 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Edge Hill University
SupervisorANTHONY LIVERSIDGE (Director of Studies) & CLAIRE PENKETH (Supervisor)


  • computer
  • collaboration
  • exploratory
  • design-based research
  • school
  • discourse
  • play

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