The impact of engineering-based science instruction on science content understanding and attitudes.
Portsmore, Merredith D.
Wright, Christopher George.
- This paper presents our ongoing study of the impact of using engineering-based science instruction on elementary students' science content understanding and attitudes. In 2008/2009,fourteen third- and fourth-grade teachers from six urban public schools in the northeastern United States implemented at least one of our four engineering design-based science units. Each of the four curriculum units po... read moreses an overarching engineering design challenge as a motivator for science investigations, uses interlocking construction (LEGOTM) elements for prototyping, requires approximately 12 hours of instructional time, and addresses a particular science domain(animal adaptations, simple machines, material properties, or sound) The learning objectives for each unit are aligned with local and national standards of science learning. Participating intervention teachers attended a 30-hour workshop on the content and pedagogy of these units. Data collection for this study involved pre and post paper-and-pencil science content tests as well as attitudinal surveys. In addition to the thirteen intervention classrooms, these pre-posttests and surveys were also administered in twelve comparison classrooms (from six public and two private schools) of the same grade levels and in the same geographical area. Comparison classrooms conducted science instruction on the same topics (animal adaptations, simple machines, material properties, or sound) but did not involve LEGO engineering design activities. Analysis of the 2008/2009 school year science content test scores using repeated-measures ANOVA, with curriculum treatment (engineering-based vs. comparison) as the between-subjects factor, and pre- and post-test score as the within-subjects factor found a significant interaction between treatment group and time of test, F(1, 640) = 23.276, p < .001;the increase in science content score from pre-to post-test was much greater for the engineering-based students than for the comparison students. This means that although the engineering-based students began the units with less science content knowledge than the comparison students, at unit completion they had equivalent science content knowledge, as measured by paper-and-pencil tests. Furthermore, analysis of the attitudinal surveys revealed that the engineering-based students had positive attitudes toward science and engineering (engineering = 232; compare = 228)Students in the engineering-based science classrooms and comparison classrooms showed no significant differences in their agreement with the statement "I am good at science" (p=0.80) or with the statement "I can use what I learn in science class in my life" (p=0.32) However, the engineering-based students did show significantly stronger agreement with the statement "I feel creative during science class" than did the comparison students (p<0.05) The findings are supportive of the usefulness of engineering-based science instruction as an effective and engaging method of science education. This paper will share additional conclusion and implications from 2008/2009 data analysis as well as results from the analysis of the 2009/2010 data that is being conducted during Fall/Winter 2010.read less
- Wendell, K. B., & Portsmore, M. D., & Wright, C. G., & Rogers, C., & Jarvin, L., & Kendall, A. (2011, June), The Impact of Engineering-Based Science Instruction on Science Content Understanding Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18768. © 2011 American Society for Engineering Education.