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"Engineering Teaches Problem Solving": Teachers' Perceptions of Student Learning through Engineering Lessons

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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

K-12 and Pre-college Engineering: Research on Teachers' Perceptions, Attitudes and Impacts of Teacher PD

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.9.1 - 24.9.10



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Paper Authors


Anastasia Marie Rynearson Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Anastasia Rynearson is a Purdue Doctoral Fellow pursuing a degree in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. and M.Eng. in Mechanical Engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her teaching experience includes outreach activities at various age levels as well as a position as Assistant Professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department at Kanazawa Technical College. Her current research interests focus on early P-12 engineering education and identity development.

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Kerrie A Douglas Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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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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“Engineering teaches problem solving”: Teachers’ perceptions of student learning through engineering lessons (research to practice)Engineering is a new subject in many elementary classrooms. The focus of engineering as wellas topics and activities that are appropriate for young students are questions that have not yetbeen answered, though various state standards and the Next Generation Science Standards haveoffered some suggestions (Carr, Bennett IV, & Strobel, 2012; NGSS Lead States, 2013).Engineering as a subject and pedagogy is typically expected to increase problem solving abilitiesand enhance science and math skills. Being in the classroom day-to-day but new to engineering,teachers may have a different perspective than researchers about the value of engineering inelementary classes and what students are learning through the activities. To develop a deeperunderstanding of the potential of engineering in elementary grade levels, there is a need forresearch examining teacher perceptions of student learning through engineering activities.The purpose of this research is to examine elementary teachers’ perceptions about what theirstudents learned from engineering lessons. This study is part of a larger, 5-year NSF fundedteacher professional development project to integrate engineering lessons into 2 nd through 4thgrade classrooms. Teachers attended summer academies where they developed a broadunderstanding of engineering and technology and learned pedagogical skills for their classrooms.They were asked to implement introductory lessons on technology and engineering and oneEngineering is Elementary unit (Cunningham & Hester, 2007). Teachers were interviewed at theend of each school year to discuss their experiences with the engineering curricula. Theirperceptions of student learning as discussed in the interviews were coded by researchers forcommon emergent themes. Preliminary results find student teamwork to be the most frequentlymentioned area of student learning, followed by technology and new vocabulary. Results will beanalyzed as a whole and disaggregated by grade level and teaching experience.This qualitative study has implications for engineering program development as well asassessment measures for engineering in elementary education. Developmental practices andstudents’ engineering abilities by age will also be discussed as well as how the findings compareto what students are expected to learn based on standards such as the Next Generation ScienceStandards. ReferencesCarr, R. L., Bennett IV, L. D., & Strobel, J. (2012). Engineering in the K-12 STEM standards of the 50 US states: An analysis of presence and extent. Journal of Engineering Education, 101(3), 1-26.Cunningham, C. M., & Hester, K. (2007). Engineering is Elementary: An engineering and technology curriculum for children. Paper presented at the 2007 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii.NGSS Lead States. (2013). Next Generation Science Standards: For states, by states. from

Rynearson, A. M., & Douglas, K. A., & Diefes-Dux, H. A. (2014, June), "Engineering Teaches Problem Solving": Teachers' Perceptions of Student Learning through Engineering Lessons Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19898

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