Engineering design challenges in early childhood education: Effects on student cognition & interest.

Kathy Malone, Vinta Tiarani, Karen E. Irving, Rachel Kajfez, Hochieh Lin, Trudy Giasi, Brian Edmiston

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This mixed methods study is one of the first to evaluate the effects of the incorporation of dramatic inquiry, dance, visual arts and physical education into preK-3 science, technology, engineering and mathematics units on student conceptual understanding of technology and engineering. The study used data collected from over 200 student surveys and focus group interviews with 14 teachers. The use of integrated STEAM units supported significant improvement in 4 to 8 year old students’ understanding of engineering and technology. We report an average 55% increase in student understanding of what engineers do, and a 36% increase in their understanding of technology. The effect sizes for both assessments showed mostly large effects for all grade levels. The pretest scores across all grade levels were not significantly different. By implementing these integrated units with our younger students, we aimed to nurture their interest and understanding of engineering and technology across grade levels. This study results imply that students may not learn about these important topics outside of school hours; thus, it is important they become acquainted with these topics during school hours. Our work suggests that engineering units with dramatic inquiry should be introduced beginning in kindergarten.
Original languageEnglish
Article number
Number of pages18
JournalEuropean Journal of STEM Education
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • STEM Education
  • Engineering Design
  • Dramatic Inquiry

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