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Measuring the Effects of Integrating Engineering into the Elementary School Curriculum on Students’ Science and Engineering Design Content Knowledge

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Engineering Education Research in K-12

Tagged Divisions

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering and Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1052.1 - 22.1052.15



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Paper Authors


Melissa Dyehouse Purdue University

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Melissa Dyehouse is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE). She received her M.S.Ed. and Ph.D. in Educational Psychology from Purdue University. She has conducted research on instrument development and validation, students' perceptions of engineers and scientists, and the effectiveness of interventions to improve students' perceptions and attitudes about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. Her research at INSPIRE focuses on the learning and teaching of engineering as a "caring" discipline in the context of environmental and ecological concerns.

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Heidi Diefes-Dux is an Associate 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. Since 1999, she has been a faculty member in Purdue’s First-Year Engineering Program, the gateway for all first-year students entering the College of Engineering. She is currently the Director of Teacher Professional Development for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE). Her P-12 research interests center on the integration of engineering into elementary education.

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Brenda Capobianco Purdue University

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Dr. Brenda Capobianco is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and holds a courtesy appointment in the School of Engineering Education and an affiliated appointment in Women’s Studies 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. 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.

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Measuring the Effects of Integrating Engineering into the Elementary School Curriculum on Students’ Science and Engineering Design Content KnowledgePurpose. The purpose of this study was to measure and assess the impact of a year-long teacherprofessional development program to prepare teachers to integrate engineering into theirclassrooms using an Engineering is Elementary (EiE) unit supplemented with other engineeringactivities. Engineering is not commonly taught at the K-12 level and as such there is minimalresearch on student learning outcomes, including instruments to measure the potential knowledgegains of a K-12 engineering curriculum.Participants and Instrument. Participants were 386 students in grades 2-4 from one schooldistrict in the south-central United States taking part in the study during the 2008-09 school year.The student knowledge tests contained a total of 11 questions (2nd grade), 10 questions (3rdgrade), and 16 questions (4th grade) organized into three domains of knowledge: science relatedcontent, engineering design process, and the work of an engineer. The tests were composed ofdevelopmentally appropriate multiple-choice and open-ended items that probe for different levelsof comprehension using low, medium, and high cognitive demand items. Items were generatedby members of the research team including STEM faculty, research assistants, and elementaryeducators. Science content items from national and state-wide educational performanceassessments were used. Items from state-wide assessments were used to ensure consistency inlanguage and cognitive development. Engineering items were modeled after EiE unit assessmentitems.Analysis. Item analysis was conducted to determine internal consistency reliability for the postknowledge test items for each subscale. To determine whether several variables (includingtreatment/control group, sex, Title 1 status, and ethnicity) had any effect on students’ knowledgescores, an analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) test with the post engineering questions as thedependent variable and the pre engineering items as the covariate was carried out for each gradelevel.Results. Internal consistency reliability was adequate for all of the test items for each gradelevel, respectively (α = .87, α = .69, α = .73). However, the individual subscales of engineeringand technology showed inadequate reliability, possibly because there were too few items. Forthis reason, the student knowledge items were combined.While there were no significant differences between 2nd grade treatment and control groups,there were statistically significant effects (p < .05) of treatment group on 3rd and 4th gradestudents’ total knowledge scores (Figure 1). More specifically, for 3rd grade knowledge testscores, students who were in the treatment group achieved increased scores (adjusted mean =0.67) as compared with students in the control group (adjusted mean = 0.46). For 4th gradeknowledge test scores, students who were in the treatment group achieved increased scores(adjusted mean = 0.67) as compared with students in the control group (adjusted mean = 0.56).Implications. Implications include redesign of the student knowledge test for academic year2009-10, including more items for engineering and technology subscales to improve reliability.Additional implications include support for the use of engineering as an integrative context forscience and engineering learning in K-12 classrooms.Figure 1 Post Adjusted Means on Knowledge Scores for Treatment and Control Groups 1 0.8 0.6 Treatment 0.4 Control 0.2 0 Grade 2 Grade 3 Grade 4Note. Scale is from 0 to 1.

Dyehouse, M., & Diefes-Dux, H. A., & Capobianco, B. (2011, June), Measuring the Effects of Integrating Engineering into the Elementary School Curriculum on Students’ Science and Engineering Design Content Knowledge Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18333

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