Academic research and evaluation papers from education programmes around the world that are investing in the development of digital skills, creativity and computational thinking using the BBC micro:bit
The Micro:bit Educational Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation. Our mission is to inspire every child to create their best digital future. By making the micro:bit the easiest and most effective learning tool for digital skills and creativity, we enable children to participate in the digital world, with particular focus on girls and those from disadvantaged groups.
The Foundation works in partnership to gather evidence on the impact of the micro:bit in more than 60 countries. As new research from different sources becomes available it will be published on this page. If you have published research you would like to see featured here, contact us.
The first impact study into the educational uses of the physical micro:bit device was commissioned by the BBC in the original UK Make it Digital project. The study, carried out by Discovery Research, explored the experience of teachers and students aged 11-12 years old, in the following school year groups:
- Year 7 students in England and Wales
- Year 8 students in Northern Ireland
- S1 students in Scotland
The study found that:
- 70%of girls said they would choose Computer Science as a subject
- 90%of students said the micro:bit showed them anyone can code
- 86% of students said the micro:bit made Computer Science more interesting
Further detail from a follow-up study with teachers is available below.
Discovery Research (2022)
A three-year research programme to support the use of the micro:bit in primary schools
The BBC micro:bit is aimed at children aged 8-14 (roughly Years 4-9), yet the vast majority of devices are used in secondary schools (Years 7+).
The Micro:bit Educational Foundation knows that where primary teachers have taught with the micro:bit, the results have been impressive. As such the Foundation and Discovery Research are undertaking a three-year programme to support use in primary schools.
The research will:
- establish an understanding of the challenges and benefits of use. This will feed a subsequent programme of activity to properly support primary school teachers to integrate the BBC micro:bit into their planning and delivery of lessons.
- monitor and understand the success of this programme over three years - to alter as required for better impact.
Discovery Research - micro:bit primary school evaluation
Lancaster University (2018)
Understanding ongoing uses of the micro:bit two years after the BBC Make It Digital initiative
A study by the Department of Educational Research at Lancaster University was undertaken to evaluate ongoing uses of micro:bit devices in UK secondary schools. An analysis of 40 participating schools revealed that the micro:bit was being used most frequently in the lower secondary years (11 - 14 year olds). The most common classroom uses for the device included use of the micro:bit device in group work, and in project work within computing, technology and science lessons. This study demonstrates the growing affordances of the micro:bit as a physical computing device within UK schools.
What Children’s Imagined Uses of the BBC micro:bit Tells Us About Designing for their IoT Privacy, Security and Safety
A report from the School of Computing and Communications at Lancaster University which focuses on "children’s (ages 9–10) likely uses of the micro:bit and an exploration of their implications...". Children imagined using the micro:bit for a range of purposes, from assistance with personal tasks, education, companionship and play.
King's College, University of London (2017)
Creating cool stuff: pupils’ experience of the BBC micro:bit
This paper is believed to be the first study which investigates the usability and affordances of the BBC micro:bit. The authors interviewed 15 teachers and 54 students in schools in England to "understand their experiences in terms of usability, creativity, the tangibility of the device and their learning of programming, and analyse their experiences in the context of previously reported benefits of physical computing."
King's College, University of London paper
St. Mary’s University College Belfast (2017)
A study of Northern Ireland Key Stage 2 pupils’ perceptions of using the BBC micro:bit in STEM education
This research investigated the perceptions towards the use of the BBC micro:bit held by students aged 7 - 11 (Key Stage 2). The study took place in two Northern Ireland (NI) primary schools. This research was published in the STeP Journal - Student Teacher Perspectives, published by the TEAN, the Teacher Education Advancement Network.
The research found that:
- 64%of pupils said the BBC micro:bit was easy or very easy to use
- 90%of pupils found the BBC micro:bit useful for solving problems
- 90%of pupils (both male and female) found using the BBC micro:bit enjoyable or very enjoyable
St Mary's University College research paper
Teachers are the greatest influencers when it comes to kids’ engagement with coding.
Evaluating teacher experience
Following the launch of the micro:bit into classrooms for the first time, the BBC again commissioned Discovery Research to understand teacher's perceptions and uses of the micro:bit. Data was gathered from 300 teachers who participated in telephone interviews.
The research found that:
- 85%of teachers agree Computer Science was more enjoyable for students
- 50%of teachers who used micro:bit say they now feel more confident in teaching Computer Science
- 81%of teachers said they had learnt something new since using the micro:bit
- 70%of teachers who were less confident in programming felt more confident after using micro:bit
Understanding student attitudes
In addition to teacher experience, the research also reported on student attitudes to learning coding and Computer Science with the micro:bit.
Teachers reported that:
- 95%of students liked that the micro:bit was hands on
- 93%of students said they learnt something new
- 88%of students said they found it fun and exciting
- 87%of students said the micro:bit helped them learn more about coding
University of Helsinki (2019)
Make with micro:bit: Teachers and Students Learning 21st Century Competences through the Innovation Process
The Innokas Network, coordinated from the University of Helsinki, together with funding agencies carries out education programmes with schools and other stakeholders to develop 21st Century Competences and promote the creative use of technology. The University carries out the research on these programmes that are implemented nationwide.
Understanding teacher and student experience
In 2018, a micro:bit pilot programme was run in schools and the University of Helsinki's study explores the introduction of the micro:bit to 100 teachers and nearly 2,000 students. Findings from the study concluded that 80% of students said anyone could learn programming after using micro:bit, 90% of teachers would use the micro:bit again, and 85% of teachers surveyed agreed micro:bit could be spread nationally as a tool for programming.
- 80%of students said that anyone could learn programming
- 90%of teachers said they would use the micro:bit again
- 85%of teachers felt the micro:bit could be spread as a national tool for programming
Make with micro:bit research paper
Eötvös Loránd University (2019)
Wandering micro:bits in the public education of Hungary
The T@T lab at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest started the "Wandering micro:bits”("Micro:bitbotorkálás”) initiative in October 2017, in partnership with the John von Neumann Computer Society.
The "Wandering micro:bits" initiative sends micro:bit class kits to schools around the country, which enables participating schools to access equipment for up to a month. This lending scheme also acts as a micro:bit network linking schools across Hungary.
The initiative's main goal is to make the BBC micro:bit – and its features in education – available in as many schools as possible even if just for a limited time.
In April 2019 a questionnaire was sent to schools that participate in the programme. Teachers were asked about motivation, impressions, ideas and about how the kits were used in their school.
The research discovered:
- 99%of teachers agreed that micro:bit made lessons and activities enjoyable for students
- 97%find the device perfect for improving algorithmic thinking
- 99%find the device perfect for improving problem solving skills (individual or project work)
- 86%felt more confident as a teacher in their subject by using micro:bits
DR Danish Broadcasting Corporation (2018)
Initial findings from DR’s ultra:bit project
The ultra:bit programme is established in 90% of Denmark's schools. It is a national programme bringing the micro:bit to students and their teachers in grades 4, 5 and 6 (ages 8 - 12). The initiative was introduced to grade 4 (age 8 - 9) in the academic year 2018/19, and into grades 5 and 6 in 2019/20.
The Center for Evaluation and Development of Science Education (NEUC) evaluated the ultra:bit project in schools on behalf of the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR). The study was carried out in November 2018 and over 300 teachers were surveyed. This evaluation included baseline data from over 8,000 students in the fourth grade (age 8 - 9).
The study found:
- 96%of teachers found that students wanted to learn more about coding and technology after using micro:bit
- 95%of teachers said students found it was easier to code than they thought
- 85%of teachers felt well prepared to teach the use of micro:bit technology
- 90%of teachers found it easier to code after using micro:bit
NEUC evaluation of DR ultra:bit(Danish)
Summary of NEUC evaluation (English)
British Council (2018)
21st Century Schools programme
The 21st Century School programme is a 5-year education programme which aims to bring micro:bits to 1 million students and core skills to 18,200 teachers across the 6 countries of the Western Balkans. The programme is run by the British Council in partnership with local country education ministries.
As of spring 2020, 263 trainers delivered the programme to 10,700 teachers, 71% of whom were female, with 2,000 teachers participating via a bespoke online course translated into local languages. 80% of participating teachers were satisfied or highly satisfied by the training experience.
In 2018, the British Council commissioned research during the pilot phase which shows the positive impact of the BBC micro:bit on students and teachers. Amongst the teachers and students' surveyed, the device was shown to increase teacher confidence and student team work.
The LSE, University of London has been commissioned to evaluate the long-term impact of this programme.
The pilot phase research found:
- 86%of teachers believe that BBC micro:bit is useful for delivering curriculum
- 90%teachers believe that the micro:bit will inspire students about computing and coding outside the classroom
- 93%of teachers felt micro:bit would be inspiring for students in the classroom
- 100%of teachers felt micro:bit was a useful teaching tool
British Council 21st Century Schools summary