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Assessment Results From A Three Year Project To Teach Engineering In Grades K 6

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Engineering Student Involvement in K-12 Programs

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

12.290.1 - 12.290.24



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Paper Authors


John Orr Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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JOHN A. ORR is Dean of Undergraduate Studies and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at WPI. He is active professionally in the area of engineering education as well as in the technical field of geolocation systems. He was recently named a Fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers for his work in engineering education. Telephone 508-831-5723; email

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Paula Quinn Independent Consultant

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PAULA QUINN is a Research Manager at the Donahue Institute of the University of Massachusetts, focusing on assessment of pre-K through post-secondary education programs and of professional development programs for educators. She has worked on projects relating primarily to the areas of literacy, science, technology, engineering, and math. Prior to joining the Donahue Institute, she worked as an independent assessment and evaluation consultant. Ms. Quinn received an M.A. in Developmental Psychology from Clark University and a B.A. in Psychology from Case Western Reserve University.

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Jill Rulfs Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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JILL RULFS is Associate Professor of Biology & Biotechnology at WPI. In addition to being a former public school teacher herself, she has remained active in university/public school partnerships. She has served as a consultant for the Massachusetts Biotechnology Research Institute on K-12 education and edited Biotechnology: The Technology of Life, a sourcebook for K-12 classroom teachers. Phone 508-831-5786; email

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Assessment Results from a Three-Year Project to Teach Engineering in Grades K-6

Abstract Assessment results from a three-year project to teach engineering in grades K through six conducted as part of the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program are presented. This project involved 18 graduate fellows, 33 public school teachers, and approximately 1000 students in grades K-6 in an urban school system. An unusual aspect of the project is that it brought the teaching of engineering to the earliest grades. Project goals included specific positive impacts on the fellows and teachers as well as on the elementary school students. Assessment results demonstrate substantial positive outcomes for the teachers and fellows but results are inconclusive for the students, perhaps due to the assessment techniques employed.

Introduction and Project Overview During the three-year period from fall, 2003 to spring, 2006, WPI participated in the NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program. WPI’s project, titled “K-6 Gets a Piece of the PIEE (Partnerships Implementing Engineering Education),” brought graduate teaching fellows and undergraduate students into the Worcester Public School System, involving three schools with quite different socioeconomic environments. Massachusetts is one of the few states to have mandated the teaching of engineering and technology topics from kindergarten through grade twelve and the PIEE project addressed grades K through 6. Previous papers1,2 have described the project, presented “lessons learned,” and explained the means by which engineering can be taught at the kindergarten and grade one levels. A companion paper3 provides an overall summary of the PIEE project. This paper presents assessment results and conclusions from the three-year project that involved a total of 8 WPI faculty, 18 WPI graduate students, 32 WPI undergraduate students, three schools, 33 teachers, and approximately 1000 Worcester Public School students. The PIEE project was rather complex organizationally, with involvement of several different groups of people: Elementary school teachers, grades K-6, Students in grades K-6, WPI graduate student fellows, WPI undergraduate students, WPI faculty as project investigators and mentors/advisors to the fellows and undergraduate students. The fellows represented the primary means by which the teaching of engineering and technology was to be enhanced. The most important role of the fellows was to help the classroom teachers develop their skills in the teaching of engineering and technology, as opposed to actually doing that teaching themselves. In fact, the need to help classroom teachers overcome their uncertainty

Orr, J., & Quinn, P., & Rulfs, J. (2007, June), Assessment Results From A Three Year Project To Teach Engineering In Grades K 6 Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2783

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2007 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015