The relationship between Executive Functions and Computational Thinking


  • Judy Robertson School of Education and School of Informatics University of Edinburgh
  • Stuart Gray University of Bristol
  • Martin Toye University of Edinburgh
  • Josephine Booth University of Edinburgh


computational thinking, executive functions


We argue that understanding the cognitive foundations of computational thinking will assist educators to improve children’s learning in computing. We explain the conceptual relationship between executive functions and aspects of computational thinking. We present exploratory empirical data from 23 eleven year old learners which investigates the correlation between assessments of programming and debugging in the visual language Scratch and scores from the BRIEF 2 assessment of executive functions. The initial data shows moderate to large correlations between assessments of debugging and programming with the BRIEF2 teachers’ rating of executive function as manifested in classroom behaviour. Case studies from the empirical data are used to qualitatively illustrate how executive functions relate to a game making task. We discuss the implications of these findings for educators, and present suggestions for future work.


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How to Cite

Robertson, J., Gray, S., Toye, M., & Booth, J. (2020). The relationship between Executive Functions and Computational Thinking. International Journal of Computer Science Education in Schools, 3(4), 35–49.