Engineering Mindsets and Learning Outcomes in Elementary School

Students may exhibit growth mindsets, where intelligence is seen as malleable and failures prompt more effort and new approaches, or fixed mindsets, where intelligence is seen as immutable and failures indicate lack of intelligence. One's mindset in general may be different from that for a particular domain such as engineering. Having a growth mindset predicts more positive learning outcomes.

We described the general and engineering mindsets of students in fifth‐grade U.S. classrooms (ages 10 and 11) who received engineering instruction. We explored how general mindsets may predict engineering learning outcomes and how engineering mindsets may be predicted by general mindset and other variables.

We collected General Mindset (GM) and Engineering Mindset (EM) surveys from 2,086 fifth graders. We analyzed and correlated their GM and EM scores and survey item responses. Using hierarchical linear modeling, we measured the contribution of GM to models predicting EM and engineering learning outcomes and identified factors that predicted EM.

Almost three quarters of students who submitted EM surveys agreed with a growth mindset. Students with higher GM scores had higher engineering postassessment scores. Those who had a higher socioeconomic status did not receive special education services, experienced more whole‐class discussion and activity, or had a higher GM score were more likely to have a more growth‐minded EM score.

Engineering education should help students see that they can grow in their capacities to engineer. Instructional interventions may positively impact mindset, which could be particularly important for some students. Engineering design may encourage an especially growth‐minded approach to failure experiences.

Lottero‐Perdue, P. S. & Lachapelle, C. P. (2020). Engineering mindsets and learning outcomes in elementary school. The Journal of Engineering Education.