Physical Testing and Failure in an Elementary Engineering Camp.
Andrews, Chelsea J.
- A qualifying paper submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Education. Abstract: Abstract: Testing and iterating on designs is a fundamental feature of the discipline of engineering. These tests often result in failure; within the professional world, engineers interpret this failure as feedback about their designs and alter their designs accord... read moreingly. At the elementary classroom level, where failure often takes the form of design constructions failing a physical test, it is unclear what to expect from students, as little research has looked closely at iteration in engineering with children.This motivates the question: How do elementary students engage in failure-prone physical testing cycles in engineering design tasks? To answer this question, I analyze a case study of a pair of fourth grade students, focusing on how they evaluate failed tests and what they change in their design construction in preparation for the next test. I found that these students do see testing as a source of feedback and make intentional changes to their design construction in response to the test results. These findings imply that students are able to productively engage in iteration and see failure-as-feedback with minimal externally-imposed structure. These results have both pedagogical implications, in terms of how to create and facilitate design tasks, and methodological implications, namely the particular insights afforded by a case study approach for analyzing design tasks.read less