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The natural curiosity of children aged three-five makes the preschool period an important time for introducing and reinforcing engineering practices (Lippard, Lam, & Riley, 2017). This study explores the impact of preschool peer interactions during engineering activities (defining a problem, brainstorming possible solutions, planning and creating a solution, testing and evaluating a solution, redesigning to improve a solution, and communicating solutions; Gruber-Hine, 2018) in how they support other preschool students to persevere during the activity (Ramanathan, 2021). When thinking about preschool students who can become easily frustrated when encountering obstacles and are known to give up soon, the implications for this type of support that a persevering group member can provide as well as its potential impact on how students pick back up and continue working together to complete the activity are significant. Perseverance is frequently necessary for successful problem-solving. Regardless of whether a student seeks out challenges or is required to complete a difficult task, perseverance varies from student to student and can influence both academic achievement and skill development. This qualitative single case study was conducted in a preschool classroom with 14 participants: 13 preschool students (ages 4-5) and the teacher. The teacher was guided on how to ask questions and engage students in engineering activities. Sample activities were provided to the teacher. Four engineering activities were implemented in the classroom. Qualitative data measuring student engagement in the activities included video clips, teacher interviews, and data memos. Video clips were coded for each step of the design process and peer interactions using a list of pre-determined codes. Teacher interviews were analyzed to triangulate findings. Preliminary data analysis from the current project has revealed that when students decided on a common goal within an engineering activity and assigned responsibilities to each other, they worked together to complete it. Even when faced with unexpected obstacles, at least one member of the group would persevere, provide ideas for what could be done, and begin improving the creation. This would motivate other group members to persevere and try again or try a different approach, rather than giving up and moving on to another activity. This underscores the impact that one persevering group member with a different idea or solution can have on peers. Studies point to the importance of perseverance on young students’ engagement in exploratory and open-ended activities, arguing that it not only advances and sustains students’ interest and engagement but also constitutes a critical part of early engineering activities (Gomes et al., 2018). Therefore, uncovering students’ developing perseverance during engineering activities is important to not only understand how students engage in preschool engineering activities, but also the influence of collaborative work and support that peers can provide when a student faces obstacles or is close to giving up. This, in turn, will provide teachers with insight on student skillset, strengths and areas facing challenges and assist in designing appropriate learning experiences and necessary scaffolding.
Ramanathan, G., & Hagenah, S. (2022, August), Influence of Peer Perseverance on Students' Engagement in Preschool Engineering Design Activities (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Minneapolis, MN. https://peer.asee.org/41263
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