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INSPIRE researchers explore how young children think and learn about engineering in formal and informal learning environments. Their goal is to identify the ways young children make sense of the world as "little engineers" and to generate knowledge for the creation of curricula that will develop ability, knowledge and interest in engineering.

INSPIRE Projects

For more details on individual projects, select one from the following:

Description of Project:
With a $2.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation, FCR-STEM is building an electronic performance support system that will save teachers considerable time, money and duplication of effort. Dubbed iCPALMS, it will feature a powerful portal linking teachers across the nation to online tools for planning and implementing instruction. INSPIRE provides ongoing consultation in program development, teacher professional development and quality assurance of instructional materials for the MEA portion of the project.

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel
Graduate Students: Ronald L. Carr

Partnerships:
Florida Center for Research In Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (FCR-STEM) at Florida State University
Melissa Dyehouse, Ph.D.
Rabieh Razzouk, MBA
http://www.lsi.fsu.edu/centers/fcrstem/


Research Question:
How can design learning be assessed at the elementary level? Are there differences between students of different ages?

Activity:
Instrument development process  for elementary students in grades 2-4.

Results:
Fourth graders were able to comment on more design process concepts.
Some design concepts, such as test and improve, are more readily understandable than others, such as problem scoping.


Description of Project:
Prior to and following engineering instruction, students in grades two to four were asked to draw a picture of an engineer at work and write a sentence describing their picture. Two coding systems have been developed to analyze the data. The first coding system is a descriptive catalog of elements represented in student drawings. The second coding system assigns one code to each drawing, indicating the type of work represented in the drawing. Data will be used to better understand the effect of an engineering intervention on elementary students’ perceptions of engineers.

Faculty:
Heidi Diefes-Dux*, Johannes Strobel

Staff:
Daphne Wiles

Graduate Students:
Ron Carr

Undergraduate Students:
Susha Kharchenko

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Description of Project:
Change in elementary students’ conceptions of engineering has been studied using the Draw-an-
Engineering Test (DAET) prior to and following a curriculum intervention. This instrument asks
students to draw an engineer doing engineering work and then write about what the engineer is
doing, typically in a sentence or two. The purpose of this study is to further analyze the effectiveness of teacher professional
development and teacher practices through a simplified analysis of student drawings.

Faculty:
Dr. Heidi* Diefes-Dux
Graduate Students: Ronald L. Carr
Undergraduate Students: Ben Horstman and Alex Niccum

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Funding Source of Project:
INSPIRE

Duration of the Project:
January 2012 - present

Description of Project:
Online learning is increasing in K-12 area, especially as the Virtual High School has been established since the early 2000s, and enrollment is dramatically increasing every year. Existing studies focused nearly exclusively on comparing effectiveness of online learning to traditional school learning or examining the characteristics of virtual school. There is a lack of research that focuses on the pedagogy and instructional design side to enhance the students’ satisfaction and retention.
For a successful online learning experience, social presence has been reported as an important factor to engage students in an online learning environment. However, most of the studies were done in a higher education setting. Therefore, a rigorous study - which means research with theoretical framework, proper methodology and literature review - assessing the social presence and enhancing student’s engagement in Virtual High Schools are needed. The overall purpose of the dissertation is to see how the social presence relates to Virtual high school students’ satisfaction and to suggest several activities that are effective on increasing students’ social presence, satisfaction and retention rate.

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel


Graduate Students:
Jea. H. Choi


Description of Project:
Interview transcripts from students (grades 2-4) were examined to measure change in understanding of engineering constructs using a coding scheme that is in development. The participants were students of teachers from a large, urban school-district that participated in two summer teacher professional development (TPD) engineering education academies and received continued support from a university center devoted to P-12 engineering education. The coding scheme has been refined and will be applied to data from all years of the DRK-12 program.

Faculty:
Dr. Heidi A. Diefes-Dux
Graduate Students: Ronald L. Carr
Undergraduate Students: Benjamin J. Horstman

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12


Toys, games and books can support children’s early development of knowledge and skills related to engineering as well as science and mathematics. Research has shown many of the toys, games and books that support engineering learning are more often purchased for boys than for girls. Through the Engineering Gift Guide, the INSPIRE Research Institute for Pre-College Engineering is raising public awareness of the many toys, games and books that promote engineering learning and are fun for both boys and girls.

Website: https://engineering.purdue.edu/INSPIRE/EngineeringGiftGuide

Questions/Comments/Feedback: Contact Elizabeth Gajdzik at egajdzik@purdue.edu or 765-494-9599


EngrTEAMS - Engineering to Transform the Education of Analysis, Measurement, and Science in a Team-Based Targeted Mathematics-Science Partnership

Description of Project:
This project is designed to help 200 teachers develop engineering design-based curricular units for each of the major science topic areas within the Minnesota State Academic Science Standards, as well as data analysis and measurement standards for grades 4-8. With focus on vertical alignment and transition from upper elementary to middle-level, this project will impact at least 15,000 students over the life of the grant.

Research Question:
What are the effects of engineering design pedagogies and curricula combined with a strong coaching model on student learning in science, data analysis, measurement, process skills, and critical thinking?

Project Website:
www.engrteams.org

Project Funding:
National Science Foundation Grant No. DUE - 1238140

Leadership:
Lead Principal Investigator: Dr. Tamara J. Moore
Co-Principal Investigators: Paul Imbertson, Marshall Davis, Selcen Guzey, Gillian Roehrig

Management:
Project Director: Cynthia Stevenson
Project Coordinator: Kelly Auxier
Event Coordinator: Barbara Wojcik

Technical Assistance:
ECSU/GRO: Julie Frame
ECSU/GRO: Jean Jordan
ECSU/GRO: Jane Holmberg

School District Partners:
South Washington County: Emily Larsen
Saint Paul: Molly Leifeld, Marshall Davis
North St. Paul: Sharon Burrell
Minneapolis: Elizabeth Stretch, Charlene Ellingson

Evaluation:
Lead Evaluator: Timothy Sheldon
Evaluator: Delia Kundin


Partnership with the Science Museum of Minnesota

Research Questions:

  • What are the different ways that adults interact with their children while engaging in informal engineering learning experiences?
  • What gender differences exist in the way adult females and males interact with their female children during these experiences?
  • How are gender differences affected when learning environments are infused with connections to personal and societal issues (context)?

Activity and Sample:
Three different informal engineering learning environments
Parents with children aged 3-11
Parents and children engage in the engineering design process and use engineering vocabulary

Frameworks and Instruments:
Islands of Expertise framework,  Adult-Child Interaction Inventory, Selinda Model of Visitor Research


Partnership with WGBH-Boston

Research Questions:
How do informal engineering programs (such as DESIGN SQUAD) support engineering-related learning over time (i.e., engineering pathways), specifically among middle school students?  What is the profile of students who benefit the most?  How much and what types of exposure support positive outcomes?  What engineering pathways do children pursue after informal programs?

Activity and Sample:
60 middle school students, 30 in MA and 30 in IN, their parents, teachers and affiliated informal educators
Provide students with online educational resources and activities

Framework, Instruments, and Analysis:
Motivational Framework:  Bandura’s Social Cognitive Career Theory
Data collection:  Semi-structured interviews and surveys over three years
Analysis:  Case study and coding of interview transcripts


As people engage in real-life situations, they draw from their full knowledge base and skillset. Integrating science, engineering, mathematics, computational thinking and literacy in educational experiences for pre-college students can better prepare students for real-world situations while also allowing teachers to add engineering and computing to the school day without diminishing their focus on mathematics and literacy. At the same time, we know children only spend about 18% of their waking hours in formal school environments -- thus we can promote learning by capitalizing on the time spent in out-of-school settings and making connections across school and out-of-school settings.

In this project, we integrate computational thinking into the PictureSTEM curriculum (which integrates STEM+literacy), develop extension activities to further support computing learning, develop science center exhibits, and develop resources for parents to help K-2nd grade students learn engineering design and computational thinking skills while also developing proficiency in mathematics, science, and literacy.

At the same time, we develop assessment frameworks, tools and approaches and conduct research on the student learning that takes place in the school and science center settings. Specifically, we investigate:

  • What does student learning look like in an integrated STEM+C school-based environment?
    • What does integration of STEM+C in K-2 classrooms look like?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate engineering thinking in the refined PictureSTEM+C curriculum? (and How is this different from the ways K-2 demonstrated engineering thinking with the original Picture STEM curriculum?)
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate computational thinking in the refined PictureSTEM+C curriculum?
  • What does student learning look like in an integrated STEM+C informal learning environment?
    • What does integration of STEM+C in a science center look like?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate engineering thinking as they engage with the STEM+C exhibits?
    • How do K-2 students demonstrate computational thinking as they engage with the STEM+C exhibits?
  • In what ways (if at all) do students make connections across the school and science center (and potentially other) settings?

Partners include:
New Community School , Glen Acres Elementary School, Imagination Station, WBAA Public Radio and the Covenant Homeschool Corporation.


Research Questions:

  • How do students respond to open-ended, ambiguous design task?
  • How do students thinking processes differ based on differences in mathematics, design and engineering backgrounds?
  • How do students’ thinking processes differ based on difference in attitudes towards and beliefs about mathematics, design and engineering?

Activity and Sample:
First–year Engineering Students and Senior Engineering, Design, Mathematics Students

Frameworks, Instruments, and Analysis:
Data collection/framework: Think-Aloud Protocol, Design Task Artifacts, Transcribed Interview Responses
Analysis: Critical Incident Analysis using Video Data and Transcripts
All pilot participants focused more on design related aspects during the first hour.

Preliminary Results:
The senior students seemed to have a more developed strategy for approaching design tasks.
The participants applied varying mathematical practices and knowledge to the task.


Description of Project:
The NHEA Pua Lililehua Project (The Beloved Children of Palolo Valley) was developed by Chaminade University’s Education Division in collaboration with Ke Kula Kaiapuni ‘O Ānuenue, a public K-12 Hawaiian language immersion school and Palolo Elementary School, a public K-5 school.
The overarching goal of this project is to improve student achievement in technology, engineering, and mathematics, at the partner elementary schools, by augmenting instruction with new strategies.
INSPIRE provides ongoing teacher professional development, curriculum consulting and assessment services for the participant schools. The teacher professional development began with 40+ teachers participating in the PBS Teacherline STEM 420 course. Following the course, the teachers received ongoing mentoring and curriculum consultation via remote videoconferencing. Further,  members of INSPIRE staff provided in-depth analysis of project outcomes using INSPIRE designed instruments

Faculty:
Dr. Johannes Strobel

Graduate Students:
Ronald L. Carr

Staff:
Elizabeth Gajdzik, Terri Fisher, SoYoon Yoon

Funding Source of Project:
Native Hawaiian Education Act

Partnerships:
Chaminade University
Katherine Kawaguchi
Director, NHEA Grants – Pua Lililehua Projects
Chaminade University of Honolulu
Ph: (808) 739-8540
Fax: (808) 739-4607


The study of engineering can advance the problem solving and critical thinking ability of all students and prepare them for the technological workplace. Early exposure to engineering principles may increase all students' interest in STEM fields, while embedding problems in social issues may aid in the recruiting of underrepresented groups to the STEM enterprise. The INSPIRE program implements these ideas and tests their impact on learning and teaching. The face-to-face workshops used in the INSPIRE program at Purdue are extended through cyber-infrastructure with the use of video-based mentoring in real time and an asynchronous learning experience. A video and audio network links elementary school teachers with researchers and educators at Purdue to form a community of practice dedicated to implementing engineering education at the elementary grades. A learning progression, based on the Engineering is Elementary and model-eliciting mathematics materials, is developed for elementary school teachers to increase their ability to adapt and refine engineering learning materials in their classrooms. Existing assessment instruments will be revised and new ones developed, as necessary, to measure the impact of the professional development that includes engineering on teacher, student, administrator and parent knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors about engineering and engineering education. The research plan identifies the changes in teacher and student knowledge, the abilities and behaviors resulting from the introduction of engineering, and the attributes of face-to-face and cyber-enabled teacher professional development and community building that can transform teachers into master users and designers of engineering education for elementary learners. The study involves about 120 teachers in three cohort groups.


Description of Project:
The PictureSTEM Project includes an instructional module at each grade level, K-5, which employs engineering and literary contexts to integrate science, technology, and mathematics content instruction in meaningful and significant ways. These transformative new models for STEM learning use picture books and an engineering design challenge to provide students with authentic, contextual activities that engage learners in specific science and mathematics content while integrating across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Currently, there are limited curricula that address this need for integration. The goal of PictureSTEM is getting these high-quality, research-based materials into practice in a form that fits with teachers’ current implementation structures.

Faculty:
Dr. Tamara J. Moore (Purdue), Dr. Kristina M. Tank (Iowa State)

Staff:
Elizabeth Gajdzik, M. Terri Sanger

Graduate Students:
Anastasia Rynearson, Bunmi Babajide

Project Website:
www.PictureSTEM.org

Funding Source of Project:
National Science Foundation (Grant No. EEC - 1442416 & IIP - 1519387)


Description of Project:
This project explores the relationship between teachers’ self-efficacy in teaching science and engineering and their knowledge of the engineering design process with their students’ outcomes in identity and knowledge.

Faculty:
Dr. Heidi Diefes-Dux
Dr. Anna Douglas

Funding Source of Project:
National Science Foundation


Description of Project:
Prior to and following engineering instruction at the Arlington Summer Academies, teachers completed an open-ended assessment that asked, “What is engineering?” and “What do engineers do?” The responses were analyzed using the Bloom’s Taxonomy coding system, first published in JEE (vol. 100, #3). The purpose of the study is to investigate the effects of an engineering intervention on teacher understanding of engineers and engineering.

Funding Source of Project:
DRK-12

Faculty:
Dr. Heidi Diefes-Dux*

Staff:
Dr. Daphne Wiles

Undergraduate Students:
Miles Evans, Bailey Mantha-Nagrant