Iteration in Early-Elementary Engineering Design
Abstract: K-12 standards and curricula are beginning to include engineering
design as a key practice within Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
education. However, there is little research on how the youngest students engage in
engineering design within the elementary classroom. This dissertation focuses on iteration
as an essential aspect of engineering design, and because r... read moreesearch at the college and
professional level suggests iteration improves the designer's understanding of problems and
the quality of design solutions. My research presents qualitative case studies of students
in kindergarten and third-grade as they engage in classroom engineering design challenges
which integrate with traditional curricula standards in mathematics, science, and
literature. I discuss my results through the lens of activity theory, emphasizing
practices, goals, and mediating resources. Through three chapters, I provide insight into
how early-elementary students iterate upon their designs by characterizing the ways in
which lesson design impacts testing and revision, by analyzing the plan-driven and
experimentation-driven approaches that student groups use when solving engineering design
challenges, and by investigating how students attend to constraints within the challenge. I
connect these findings to teacher practices and curriculum design in order to suggest
methods of promoting iteration within open-ended, classroom-based engineering design
challenges. This dissertation contributes to the field of engineering education by
providing evidence of productive engineering practices in young students and support for
the value of engineering design challenges in developing students' participation and agency
in these practices.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2017.
Submitted to the Dept. of Education.
Advisor: Bárbara Brizuela.
Committee: Chris Rogers, Brian Gravel, and Janet Kolodner.
Keywords: Elementary education, Engineering, and Science education.read less