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Changes in Elementary Students’ Engineering Knowledge Over Two Years of Integrated Science Instruction (Research to Practice)

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Across the K-12 Curriculum: Integration with the Arts, Social Studies, Sciences, and the Common Core

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.270.1 - 24.270.15

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Paper Authors


Mariana Tafur-Arciniegas Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Mariana Tafur is a Ph.D. candidate and a graduate assistant in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She has a M.S., education, Los Andes University, Bogota, Colombia; and a B.S., electrical engineering, Los Andes University, Bogota, Colombia. She is a 2010-2013 Fulbright Fellow. Her research interests include engineering skills development, STEM for non-engineers adults, motivation in STEM to close the technology literacy gap, and STEM formative assessment

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K. Anna Douglas Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Anna Douglas is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Purdue University's Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning. She received her B.A. in Psychology, M.S. Ed. in School Counseling, and her Ph.D. in Educational Psychology, with an emphasis on Research Methods and Measurement from Purdue University. Her research focuses on assessment and evaluation in engineering education.

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Food Process Engineering from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She is a member of Purdue’s Teaching Academy. Since 1999, she has been a faculty member within the First-Year Engineering Program, teaching and guiding the design of one of the required first-year engineering courses that engages students in open-ended problem solving and design. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and assessment of model-eliciting activities with authentic engineering contexts. She is currently the Director of Teacher Professional Development for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) and a member of the educational team for the Network for Computational Nanotechnology (NCN).

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Changes in Elementary Students’ Engineering Knowledge Over Two Years of Integrated Science Instruction (Research to Practice)Through an NSF grant, this institute partnered with a large school district in South CentralUnited States to provide engineering professional development for teachers in grades 2-4 overthe course of five years. While the science learning objectives varied between grade levels, theengineering content (the definition of technology, what is engineering, what do engineers do, andthe engineering design process) remained the same for each of the three grades. Compared to theinstructional time spent on other subject matter covered in a school year, students receivedminimal exposure to engineering (M = 14 hours, SD = 8 hours). Yet, previous research from thisproject has shown that students on average do significantly gain in their understanding ofengineering after this level of exposure (author et al., 2012). It is unknown how students withmore than one year of this level of exposure develop in their understanding of engineering. Thereis a need to research how students’ knowledge of engineering grows over time with continuedexposure to engineering design classroom activities.The purpose of this study was to analyze elementary students’ changes in knowledge ofengineering regarding the definition of technology, the engineering design process, and the workof an engineer over two academic years where engineering lessons were integrated into thescience curriculum.From fall of 2011 to spring of 2013, two groups of students’ engineering knowledge wereassessed at the start and end of two academic years where engineering lessons were taught. Eachstudent’s knowledge was assessed a total of four times. The first group of students (n = 162)were assessed during their second and third grade years. The second group of students (n = 168)were assessed during their third and fourth grade. A repeated-measures ANOVA was conductedto analyze students’ learning over the academic years.The first group of students, those that first had engineering integrated into their second gradeyear, experienced significant gains in engineering knowledge over the course of the school year.Over the summer months, students’ significantly decreased in their engineering knowledge. Bythe end of their third grade year, students had again significantly increased in their engineeringknowledge, but not to a level that was significantly different from their mean score at the end ofsecond grade (Figure 1).The second group of students, those that had engineering integrated into their third and fourthgrade years, experienced significant gains in engineering knowledge at each of the time pointsassessed, including over the summer months (Figure 1).These results indicate that students in the third grade may be developmentally more ready toretain engineering related content than those in second grade. In addition, students who haveengineering lessons integrated into their third grade year are able to retain their level ofknowledge and further build upon it during the next academic year. Implications and futureresearch will be discussed.Figure 1. Engineering Knowledge Scores

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: © 2014 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