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Influence of Peer Perseverance on Students' Engagement in Preschool Engineering Design Activities (Work in Progress)

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2022 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Minneapolis, MN

Publication Date

August 23, 2022

Start Date

June 26, 2022

End Date

June 29, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

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Paper Authors


Gurupriya Ramanathan Salisbury University

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Gurupriya Ramanathan is an Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Education at Salisbury University, where she teaches coursework on early childhood education including topics such as teaching science and engineering in early childhood. Dr. Ramanathan’s previous teaching experiences include teaching across preschool through 2nd grade, as well as special education (self-contained) and inclusive classrooms. Prior to joining Salisbury University, Dr. Ramanathan worked as a research assistant at Boise State University where she contributed to a variety of projects investigating early childhood STEM education, as well as, providing instructional coaching for teachers to implement high-quality practices in their classrooms. Her current research interests revolve around high quality early childhood STEM practices, supporting teachers in implementation of early STEM education, as well as Makerspaces in Early Childhood.

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Sara Hagenah

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Science and STEM teacher educator, interested in teacher and student identity

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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.

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