Research Directions; Which Way To Go?

I plan on continuing to implement and document the PK-6 Elementary Engineering Curriculum I have been developing.  That is clear.  What is less clear is the direction to go with my associated research.

Many intriguing possible areas have come up but I will need to focus on a couple of them.

  1. How does interest and engagement is robotics relate to the creative play/fantasy play we see in children?  How does this relate to the work of Erikson, Gardner (Multiple Intelligences), Vigotsky, and Piaget?
  2. Is there a clear developmental progression in creative play/building/engineering interest/development of PK-6 children?
  3. Why is robotics so engaging, especially to students that either need more challenges or (generally) boys who have learning or attention issues but are very successful with hands on building projects.  How does this fit in with the Activated Learner research from the Moore Foundation?

I am thinking that due to my own limited resources, I may wish to track a small number of children starting from PK or K and with the use of video of their work and video and written interview and reflections, develop some case studies of children’s engineering development over 7 or 8 years.  I will also pursue grants and collaborations that support this work.  I would love to get some feedback on which of the 3 areas above would be most helpful in your own work.



This entry was posted in Child Development, Research, Robotics. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Research Directions; Which Way To Go?

  1. I am wondering if 1 and 2 are closely related enough to be merged. For topic 3, I omitted the part about finding out how early engineering experiences affect interest in STEM careers.

  2. Rob Torok says:

    Yes, indeed!

    I’m particularly interested in the idea of tracking a group of students over an extended period. I’ve been wondering about starting a project along these lines for a while, but haven’t been able to see how to move forward.

    Of the topics you list, I think #3 -especially with the STEM-angle – is the one that attracts me the most. Or at least, it’s closest to the area that I would choose to concentrate on – not that I really know what that should be anyway!

    The age-range of students I work with is a bit older (Grade 5 – Grade 12), but even so, I think it would be interesting to see how students’ understanding and attitudes relating to STEM change over an extended period of time.

    Whatever you decide to do, I’ll be watching with interest!!

  3. Jen Marshall says:

    Hi John,

    I’m hardly an education expert, so I can’t say which research route you should take but if you want to track John and Reid you can. They are entering K this fall. Both have what can only be called an obsession with engineering / building. We buy a lot of Legos, duct tape, and “parts” at Acme or the hardware store. Interestingly enough, all of the men on my husband Doug’s paternal side of the family are/were engineers. They can trace their engineer lineage back to a Welsh man named Hopkin Thomas who emigrated to the US in 1834 and is the patriarch of seven generations of engineers and industrialists who can trace their roots to the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania. John and Reid are the eighth generation. I have no idea if they’ll end up doing engineering professionally one day, but they are really excited about it now. I mentioned your engineering program to them today and they practically jumped out of their seats with excitement. So keep us in the loop!

  4. JohnHeffernan says:

    Thanks so much, Jen! I am pleased that you would allow us to track your sons over time. It should be very interesting!

  5. Wayne Burnett says:

    Hi John,

    As a doctoral student hoping to focus his dissertation on educational robotics, your research is very interesting. I am not sure there is a “clear” progression (#2), but there could be some very interesting outcomes of researching what students can do/benefit from at different ages/developmental stages and therefore contribute to the development of robotics curricula.

    On the other hand, especially these days of having to prove the worthiness of initiatives, being able to prove that educational robotics is an intervention that leads to more young people pursing STEM in college, that would be useful. The key is “proving it”. Longer term tracking might be part of that proof.

    I lean towards #2 though.

    Good luck!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *