Investigating Classroom-related Factors that Influence Student Perceptions of LEGO Robots as Educational Tools in Middle Schools

This paper investigates classroom-related factors such as pedagogical strategies and management of robotics-based educational content that contribute to the formation of student perceptions in robotics-enhanced classes. Robots are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in K-12 classroom in the United States and are used to improve student engagement, interactive learning, innovative thinking, collaboration, problem-solving skills, language learning, and achievement scores. Most studies reporting on the use of robots in education focus their attention only on the effects of robots on students’ cognitive, conceptual, language, and social skills. Much less studied, yet of critical importance in the assessment of effectiveness of robot usage, is the perception of students regarding the robot’s presence and utility in their classrooms, and what factors contribute to the formation of these perceptions. This is crucial as robots are increasingly introduced in K-12 classrooms as novel, tangible artifacts that are considered to promote engagement and creation of an environment conducive for student learning.

Prior work in this domain has focused on assessing students’ perceptions of robots via questionnaires, observations, and interviews, and has reported that, in general, students have a positive attitude towards robotics-enhanced lessons. In this paper, we aim to develop a more nuanced understanding of student attitudes towards robotics-based lessons, and to study how the pedagogical methodologies used by teachers in a class influence the formation of such attitudes. To this end, we observe the implementation of robotics-enhanced lesson plans in four middle school classrooms by teachers who participated in a summer professional development program to gain familiarity with using a robotics kit and have experience with developing robotics-enhanced science and math lesson plans. We utilize an open-ended survey question to probe students across different classrooms regarding their opinions on the utility of robots in their education. We supplement this data by measuring the students’ emotions and stated enjoyment of robotics. We also collect extensive notes regarding the classroom activities and student behavior during the lesson implementation.

A majority of the students surveyed were found to have positive attitudes towards the use of robots in their classes. However, comparing and contrasting the lessons, conducted in four different science and math classrooms, reveals that student reactions to robotic activities designed to encourage active learning and knowledge construction through an experimental platform vary across classrooms. We were able to nominally map the differences in both positive and negative student responses as well as in the changes of student emotions to the various educational methodologies used in each classroom. Our findings highlight the need for a greater focus on examining the effect of educational methodologies used to inform the creation and dissemination of robotics-enhanced content that positively influences students’ perceptions of robots. Such work is of critical importance to effectively improve scientific literacy and attitudes towards science and technology in the country and to help motivate and prepare students for careers in STEM fields in the future.

Ghosh, S., Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2019). Investigating classroom-related factors that influence student perception of utility of LEGO robots as educational tools in middle schools (Fundamental). Proceedings of the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Tampa, FL.