Exploring the Efficacy of Engineering is Elementary (E4)

This project is developing evidence about the efficacy of the Engineering is Elementary curriculum under ideal conditions by studying the student and teacher-level effects of implementation. The project seeks to determine the core elements of the curriculum that support successful use. The findings from this study have broad implications for how engineering design curricular can be developed and implemented at the elementary level.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1220305
Funding Period: 
Saturday, September 15, 2012 to Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Full Description: 

This project is developing evidence about the efficacy of the Engineering is Elementary curriculum under ideal conditions by studying the student and teacher-level effects of implementation. The rigorous level of evidence that is developed in this study has significant utility as a support for the kinds of elementary engineering curricula that are needed as the Next Generation Science Standards come online and emphasize engineering design. The study is a randomized control trial where the assignment of teachers will be to the EiE curricular materials or to a counterfactual condition, the use of more standard design engineering curricular materials. The project studies the impact of the use of the curriculum on student learning and on teachers' use of the curriculum in a fidelity of implementation study to determine the core elements of the curriculum that support successful use. The study examines the implementation of the curricular materials in a number of contexts to more fully understand the conditions under which they work best and to explicate what aspects of such project-based inquiry materials most support student learning.

This study uses a randomized cluster trial to examine the efficacy of the EiE curriculum across 75 schools in the treatment and 75 schools in the control group samples. Two teachers per school are included in one treatment/control condition per school. Outcome measures for students include performances on project-specific measures that have been examined for technical quality of validity and reliability. A set of additional research-based survey instruments validated for use in the EiE context are also used to collect data about students' attitudes, perceptions, interest and motivation toward science and engineering. A robust fidelity of implementation research plan is being implemented that will include teachers surveys, pre and post assessments, teacher logs, as well as student engineering journals and student work from classroom implementation. The fidelity of implementation is further studied with forty treatment and ten control teachers through classroom observations and interviews.

The findings from this study have broad implications for how engineering design curricular can be developed and implemented at the elementary level. Engineering design has not been emphasized in the elementary classroom, lagging behind instruction in science with which teachers are more familiar. The results of this study inform practitioners and policy makers about what works, for whom and under what conditions. Information about the different contexts in which the curriculum has been implemented supports the dissemination of evidence-based research and development practices to strengthen STEM learning for all students.

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