The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

An English as a Second Language (ESOL) Teacher’s Experiences with Learning and Teaching Coding and Robotics

Tugba Boz, University of Georgia (United States)

Martha Allexsaht-Snider, University of Georgia (United States)


Coding and robotics are being increasingly included in primary schools to lay a foundation for computing skills starting from early ages. It is argued in the literature that coding is on its way to becoming the language of practice and the fourth R (algoRithm) in schools. In this present study, we examined and described an ESOL teacher’s (Nadine, pseudonym) experiences with learning coding through robotics and her perspectives about integrating it into her ESOL lessons. The data was taken from a four-year project in which 31 teachers from a rural school district were recruited for professional learning about teaching coding and robotics and argumentation. In this study, we report on Nadine’s experiences with coding because the potentials of using coding and robotics are generally investigated for STEM lessons while studies on its value in ESOL lessons are scarce. Data collection and generation sources included semi-structured pre- and post-training interviews, videos of the teacher working on coding and robotics tasks, and the teacher’s assignment submissions for the professional learning course. We employed Activity Theory (AT) for analytical purposes to reveal the mediations and barriers that facilitated or hindered Nadine’s learning of coding and robotics. AT also allowed us to describe, narrate, and summarize a complex real-world learning environment into manageable and understandable units (Yamagata-Lynch, 2010). Nadine did not begin the program of professional learning with any interest in learning/teaching coding, as she indicated before the course that she signed up to learn about argumentation rather than coding/robotics. However, as she progressed in the course, she changed her attitudes toward coding and robotics. She reported starting to develop interest in learning and teaching coding, particularly after she did some coding with her students in her real-life classroom. She indicated that inclusion of coding was valuable in her ESOL teaching because coding naturally demanded collaboration and communication between her students and provided her English learners a context in which to “use their expressive and receptive communication skills as they [together] move through the programs.” In terms of her learning experiences with coding, she reported that more collaborative opportunities during the course would have made her experience of learning coding less challenging and more effective. The results of the study showed that in supporting ESOL teachers to learn and use coding and robotics, professional development designers should highlight the communication aspect of using coding with English learners and systematically encourage collaboration and communication-rich learning opportunities among teacher participants during professional learning.

Keywords: English learners, coding, robotics, teacher training.


  • Yamagata-Lynch, L. C. (2010). Activity systems analysis methods: Understanding complex learning environments. Springer Science & Business Media.

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