For the most up-to-date list of my publications, please see my Google Scholar page.

If you would like to read one or more of these publications but cannot get access to them, please email me and I will let you know if I can send you an author copy of the relevant publication/s.


My thesis, or doctoral dissertation as they are often referred to outside of Australia, was accepted during September 2020.

A study of a professional learning program for primary school teachers implementing the New South Wales science and technology syllabus

Supervised by Elena Prieto-Rodriguez and John Fischetti

View on NOVA

Australia is one of several countries that has recently mandated that K-12 students learn computational thinking and coding from the early years of schooling. The introduction of the mandatory teaching of these skills presents many challenges for teachers because these skills have not usually been taught in their initial teacher education. Many professional learning opportunities have been developed to upskill teachers in this new content, but few studies have investigated the impact of these opportunities on teachers’ understanding of computational concepts or self-efficacy in computational thinking. This study investigated the impact of a professional learning program, Coding in Stage 3, on teachers’ understanding of computational concepts, self-efficacy in computational thinking and plans for integrating coding into different subjects. The teachers who completed the Coding in Stage 3 program (N=42) participated in one of two streams that had a different subject focus: a stream focussed on integrating coding in Mathematics, ScratchMaths (n=15), and another stream focussed on integrating coding across multiple subjects, Coding & STEAM (n=27). Consequently, the study also aimed to compare the difference between the two streams by subject focus. The findings from the mixed methods analysis indicate that, overall, the participating teachers gained in their understanding of computational concepts and their self-efficacy but that the subject focus of the program did not impact those gains. However, teachers who completed the program with a focus on Mathematics were significantly more likely to integrate coding in Mathematics lessons after the program. I argue that more resources that integrate coding with subjects other than Mathematics should be developed but would warn against the notion that integrating coding with other subjects saves instructional time. In addition, in order to address the challenge of implementing these new curricula, educational leaders should be aware that there is a need to support teachers to develop strategies for sharing their coding knowledge with colleagues, and that these strategies will be as important as professional learning programs designed to upskill individual teachers.

First Author Publications

Journal Articles

To Assess or Not to Assess: Tensions Negotiated in Six Years of Teaching Teachers about Computational Thinking

Daniel Hickmott and Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

In Informatics in Education, Volume 17, Issue 2

Published September 2018

View at Informatics in Education Website

Coding and computational thinking have recently become compulsory skills in many school systems globally. Teaching these new skills presents a challenge for many teachers. A notable example of professional development designed using Constructionist principles to address this challenge is ScratchEd. Upon reflecting on her experiences designing and running ScratchEd, Karen Brennan identified five tensions faced by professional development providers, and proposed that these tensions could be used for scrutinising and critiquing professional development. In this paper we analyse, through the lens of Brennan's tensions, the process we have followed to design, evaluate and improve professional development. We argue that while we have experienced the same tensions, the extent to which we assess learning is a new tension that extends those identified by Brennan. There are strong reasons to assess teachers' knowledge, however, quantitative measures of learning could be at odds with Constructionism: as Papert argued in Mindstorms, constructionist educators should study their learning environments as anthropologists. Consequently, we have called this new tension the tension between anthropology and assessment.

A Scoping Review of Studies on Computational Thinking in K–12 Mathematics Classrooms

Daniel Hickmott, Elena Prieto-Rodriguez and Kathryn Holmes

In Digital Experiences in Mathematics Education, Volume 4, Issue 1

Published April 2018

View at SpringerLink Website

Since the 1960s, a few, yet very influential, educational researchers have investigated how computer programming can be used to foster mathematics learning. However, since the term ‘computational thinking’ was popularised by Jeannette Wing in 2006, the number of studies in this area has grown substantially. In this article, we present a systematic analysis of literature linking mathematics education to computational thinking in an attempt to quantify the breadth and depth of existing work in the area. Our analysis indicates that many studies: (1) originate from computer science academics rather than education experts; (2) involve mathematics but mainly concentrate on teaching programming skills; (3) present small-scale research designs on self-reported attitudes or beliefs; (4) rarely deal with concepts in mathematical domain areas such as probability, statistics, measurement or functions. Thus, we conclude that there are opportunities for rigorous research designs reporting on observable learning outcomes, explicitly targeting mathematics, conducted by multidisciplinary teams, and focusing on less-explored domain areas. We believe that these opportunities should be investigated, in order to provide a broader evidence base for developing meaningful digital learning experiences in mathematics for school-aged children.

Conference Articles

Constructionist Experiences in Teacher Professional Development: A Tale of Five Years

Daniel Hickmott and Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

Presented at the Constructionism 2018 conference

In Vilnius, Lithuania during August 2018

View at Constructionism 2018 Website

Computational thinking and coding have recently become compulsory elements in the Australian K-8 curriculum that should be taught using ‘authentic learning challenges’ (ACARA, 2018a). However, very few teachers, particularly in the primary school setting, have been schooled on computational thinking or coding and rarely possess pedagogies to teach them authentically. A range of professional development opportunities are currently being offered to impart this knowledge, both for content and pedagogy. In this paper, we provide an account of the evolution we have experienced when designing and improving professional development workshops for teachers in coding and computational thinking. We reflect on our challenges and successes, and attest that it was only after ‘discovering’ Constructionism in late 2015 that we have been able to prepare activities that truly emulate the authentic learning experiences that teachers are required to use in their classrooms.

Building apostrophe power: lessons learnt for serious games development

Daniel Hickmott, Shamus P. Smith, Ross Bille, Elizabeth Burd, Liz Stephens and Erica Southgate

Presented at the Interactive Entertainment 2016 conference

In Canberra, Australia during February 2016

View at ACM Digital Library

There is increasing interest in the application of serious games for learning. Growth in the take-up of digital devices, e.g. smartphones and tablets, and their use for gaming provides new opportunities for mobile learning (m-learning). A serious game m-learning app for improving adult learners' apostrophe usage, called Apostrophe Power, has been developed. The research team, which consisted of software engineers and educationalists, encountered a number of discipline spanning issues while designing and developing this m-learning app. This paper overviews the issues encountered, the recommendations from recent literature and how the issues were ultimately addressed, exemplified in a case study. These lessons learnt offer insight for serious game development and highlight practical solutions for m-learning apps involving interdisciplinary teams.

Co-Author Publications

Conference Articles

Using coding to teach mathematics: results of a pilot project

Kathryn Holmes, Elena Prieto-Rodriguez, Daniel Hickmott and Nathan Berger

Presented at the Integrated Education for the Real World: 5th International STEM in Education conference

In Brisbane, Australia during November 2018


The Australian Curriculum: Digital Technologies provides an opportunity for teachers to integrate coding and computational thinking within their STEM teaching practices. However, this opportunity has proven to be a challenge for many teachers, as their self-efficacy with respect to teaching these new skills is often low. This research explores the implementation of a professional development program that focussed on the integration of coding and computational thinking within the teaching of mathematics in primary school classrooms. In particular, we study changes in teacher self-efficacy with regards to coding and computational thinking before and after participating in the program. Using the validated Teachers’ Self-Efficacy in Computational Thinking (TSECT) instrument as well as focus group data, we analyse the experiences of 15 primary school teachers in New South Wales, Australia. We conclude that the program, based on the ScratchMaths resources developed in the UK, was successful in improving teachers’ self-efficacy towards both computational thinking and the integration of mathematics and coding. Our qualitative analysis of the focus group conversations also highlighted teachers’ positive perceptions of student engagement and the need to make the mathematics concepts underpinning the ScratchMaths modules more explicit.

Exploring Play-Learners’ Analytics in a Serious Game for Literacy Improvement

Shamus P. Smith, Daniel Hickmott, Erica Southgate, Ross Bille and Liz Stephens

Presented at the Joint International Conference on Serious Games 2016 conference

In Brisbane, Australia during September 2016

View at SpringerLink Website

The collection and analysis of analytics incorporated into serious games provides researchers with objective data on player behavior related to serious game design elements and learning. Such analytics offer insights about play-learners engagement that is not possible to capture through traditional techniques. Visualization of learning behavior data can allow for a comparison between the pedagogical intent of the game design and the play-learners actual behavior within the serious game. This paper describes the use of game-play logs to identify pathways through gaming content in a serious game app for literacy improvement. The paper describes the technical aspects of processing game-play logs and their transformation into visualizations, and considers how these visualizations can be used to explore play-learner behavior in relation to the pedagogical intent of activities embedded in the serious game app.

Improving undergraduate soft skills using m-learning and serious games

Shamus P. Smith, Daniel Hickmott, Ross Bille, Elizabeth Burd, Erica Southgate and Liz Stephens

Presented at the IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment, and Learning for Engineering 2015 conference

In Zhuhai, China during December 2015

View at IEEE Xplore Website

Soft skills such as effective communication are becoming increasingly important for engineering graduates. Employers prize excellent written and oral abilities and literacy proficiency. High levels of academic literacy can significantly improve students' success in their university study. Traditional approaches to literacy improvement can limit student engagement. However, mobile learning and the use of smart phone apps present new opportunities to support literacy education. This paper describes current work exploring the use of apps, as serious games, to improve literacy in undergraduate students and outlines initial results from a cross-discipline evaluation of an m-learning literacy app.