I am seeking to determine how schools support or don’t support the natural engineering instincts of children through the use of a survey.
The working thesis is that the natural engineering and building instincts of children are supported in preschool (PK) and kindergarten (K) classrooms with things like sand tables, blocks, and LEGO bricks but these are taken away as children progress through elementary school and that is a major factor in the shortage of STEM workers in the United States. The survey will determine if, in fact, engineering activities drop off in grades 1 to grades 6. Initially, this survey will be for the Hampshire Regional School District only (Phase 1). Later, the survey will be given to other schools (Phase 2).
While the primary goal is the measure the number of engineering activities by grade level, secondary goals are to:
- measure the impact of robotics engineering programs on elementary engineering education,
- determine educator attitudes towards the teaching of elementary engineering,
- determine educator perceived barriers towards the teaching of elementary engineering.
This research is important for many reasons.
- Elementary engineering education is not well understood.
- Schools and districts will be required to have much more of a focus on engineering education with the upcoming Next Generation Science Standards. (Framework for K-12 Science Education, 2012)
- The shortage of STEM workers in the United States is a well-understood and critical problem for the country (The Gathering Storm, 2007).
- If the survey does show that engineering is not supported in grades 1 to grade 6 classrooms, it will lend support to efforts to add elementary engineering activities in these grades.
- Because teachers I have currently trained in robotics engineering education are self-selected and enthusiastic about engineering education, the survey will give a much more representative view of general attitudes towards engineering education.
Here are the actual questions. I have a full document describing the design and rationale with references available upon request (this was done for my Survey Methodology class).