Asee peer logo

Impact of Elementary School Teachers' Enacted Engineering Design-Based Science Instruction on Student Learning (Fundamental)

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Fundamental: K-12 Student Beliefs, Motivation, and Self Efficacy

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Tagged Topic


Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Brenda Capobianco Purdue University, West Lafayette

visit author page

Brenda M. Capobianco is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and School of Engineering Education (courtesy) at Purdue University. She holds a B.S. in biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, M.S. in science education from Connecticut Central State University, and Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She teaches elementary science methods and graduate courses in teacher action research and gender and culture in science education. Her research interests include girls’ participation in science and engineering; teacher’s engagement in action research; and science teachers’ integration of the engineering design process to improve science learning.

visit author page


James D. Lehman Purdue University

visit author page

Dr. James D. Lehman is a Professor of Learning Design and Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and the Director of the Discovery Learning Research Center at Purdue University. He is member of the leadership teams of two current NSF-funded projects, Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) and Professional Development for Computer Science (PD4CS). He holds a B.S. and M.S. in biology and a Ph.D. in science education, all from Purdue University. His research interests include integration of computers in education, particularly in STEM disciplines; e-learning; and interactive multimedia.

visit author page


Qiming Huang Purdue University

visit author page

Qiming Huang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Statistics at Purdue University. He holds a B.S. in Mathematics from the Beijing Institute of Technology, M.S. in Statistics from Purdue University. His research interests include variable selection, dimension reduction, kernel methods, computational advertising and statistical application in psychometrics.

visit author page


Chell Nyquist Purdue University

visit author page

Chell Nyquist is the project manager for the Science Learning through Engineering Design (SLED) Partnership which focuses on improving science achievement among students in grades 3 through 6 in four partnering Indiana school corporations. Prior to joining the project, he was the Instructional Laboratory Coordinator for the First-Year Engineering Program at Purdue University. He was responsible for the coordination and administration of two introductory engineering courses involving 1800 students. Nyquist earned his MS in engineering from Purdue University and received BS degrees in Physiology and Bioengineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Engineering design is viewed as a vehicle through which scientific knowledge and real-world problem-solving skills can be constructed, refined, and enhanced. With the adoption of new national science standards in the U.S., teachers, specifically elementary school teachers, are faced with the daunting task of learning how to integrate engineering design and more importantly, facilitate student learning of science through design. The purpose of this study was to examine elementary school teachers’ enactments of engineering design-based science instruction and to assess the impact of their instruction on students’ science learning. This study is grounded in the theoretical construct of situated learning theory where learners (teachers and students) become part of a community of practice in which they learn from others (university STEM faculty) through an apprenticeship approach and advance from simple to more complex tasks until becoming full-fledged participants of the community. The context of this study is a large, multi-year university school partnership that includes the participation of over 200 elementary/intermediate school teachers, 3,000 students, 25 STEM faculty and educational researchers. For the purpose of this study, a sub-sample of ten individual cases (5 grade five teachers and 165 students and 5 grade six teachers and 157 students) were purposefully selected from the larger population. These cases represented individual classroom teachers and their students who provided consent, completed all research-related activities, and implemented a series of similar engineering design-based science tasks over the course of one year. Data sources included two semi-structured interviews/teacher (n=20 total) and formal classroom observations of teachers’ enactments of two tasks from beginning to end (n=200 hours). Interviews were analyzed using grounded theory. Classroom observations were analyzed using the Engineering Design-Based Classroom Observational Rubric – an observation tool developed, validated, and published by the research team. Students’ development of scientific knowledge was assessed by identical pre- and post-instruction tests. The tests were composed of multiple-choice items that probed for different levels of comprehension using low, medium, and high cognitive demand. The tests focused on the specific science and engineering content that was addressed in each unit design task. Tests were analyzed for item validity, and an overall Cronbach alpha reliability was calculated based on the post-test administration of the test. Simple descriptive statistics were calculated, and paired samples t-tests were used to assess students’ pre-test to post-test learning gains. Test results indicated that the mean score for each assessment increased significantly from pre-test to post-test across multiple design tasks. To assess whether there was a relationship between the fidelity of teachers’ implementation of the design-based lessons and student performance on the knowledge tests, Pearson product moment correlations were calculated between teachers’ mean observational rubric scores and students’ scores on the corresponding post-test. Results indicated that the teachers gave priority to design phases such as problem scoping and planning and less time to solution performance, communication, and documentation of performance results, and optimization. Teachers’ enactment of design-based pedagogies aligned with instructional models presented at professional development summer institutes while students’ test score performance correlated significantly with teachers’ enactment. Weak enactment of engineering design-based science instruction and design tasks that did not merit a strong science application correlated with lower mean and gain scores. Implications of this study support the integration of engineering design-based science instruction in elementary school science and provide fertile ground for research on how students apply and transfer their science learning across subsequent units and real world contexts.

Capobianco, B., & Lehman, J. D., & Huang, Q., & Nyquist, C. (2016, June), Impact of Elementary School Teachers' Enacted Engineering Design-Based Science Instruction on Student Learning (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25540

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: © 2016 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