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Elementary Students’ Engineering Design Process Knowledge: Instrument Development and Pilot Test

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Focus on Elementary

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.512.1 - 25.512.11



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Paper Authors


Ming-Chien Hsu Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Ming-Chien Hsu is a doctoral candidate of engineering education and a research assistant for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE) at Purdue University. She received for B.S. in electrical engineering from National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan, and a M.S. in electrical engineering from Purdue University. Her current research focus is on engineering design and K-12 engineering education and interdisciplinary education.

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Monica E. Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16


Senay Purzer Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Senay Purzer is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She is also the Director of Assessment Research in INSPIRE (Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning).

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Assessing Elementary Students’ Engineering Design Process Knowledge –Results of a Pilot Test Interest in introducing engineering concepts to elementary school aged children hascontinued to increase in recent years for a variety of factors, some of which include concerns oflacking STEM literacy and global competitiveness. Recent studies have provided evidence thatlearning through engineering design can promote deep learning (Kolodner, 2002; Mehalik,Doppelt, & Schunn, 2008). As more states are adding engineering content, including design, aspart of their K-12 teaching standards, there is a need to understand design learning at the K-12level. One of the frameworks that researchers most often use to understand engineering design isto characterize the process involved. In this study, we develop an instrument to assesselementary students’ knowledge of engineering design process. We base the design of the instrument on the principle of aligning cognition, observation,and interpretation in developing an assessment instrument. In the process of developing thisinstrument, we considered Messick’s theory of comprehensive validity (Messick, 1995).Students undertake a task asking them to comment on a process used. As a part of the validationprocess, we administered the instrument to 71 elementary students at the beginning and at theend of a school year. The instruction group consisted of 37 students who participated inengineering lessons with content that included the design process, while the other 34 students(the comparison group) did not participate in any engineering instruction. A dichotomous rubricwas developed based on the aspects of the engineering design process that was taught to the 37students who participate in the engineering lessons. We conducted a Mann-Whitney test using SPSS version 17 to compare the instructiongroup and the comparison group. At a one-tailed significance level of 0.10, the pre-test totalscore did not reveal significant difference between the two groups (U=620.00, z=-0.11, ns, r=-0.01). The results comparing post-scores suggested that by the end of the school year, theinstruction group scored significantly higher than the comparison group (U=495.00, z=-1.58,p=0.06, r=-0.19). Wilcoxon’s signed rank test showed that for both comparison group andinstruction group, the post–test scores were significantly higher than the pre-test scores.However, when comparing the effect size r, the instruction group exhibited a medium to largeincrease (z=-2.82, p responses and performances as scientific inquiry into score meaning. American Psychologist, 50(9), 741-749.

Hsu, M., & Cardella, M. E., & Purzer, S. (2012, June), Elementary Students’ Engineering Design Process Knowledge: Instrument Development and Pilot Test Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21270

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