skip to main content


Title: Developing habits of mind through family engineering at home.
Engineering in early education provides the foundation for the future of innovation. Reinforcing learning and engineering habits of mind (HoM) at an early age is crucial for expanding students’ higher order thinking, potential for lifelong learning, and sense of agency in their learning experiences. HoM is defined as a set of learned or internalized dispositions that inform an individual's behaviors when confronted with challenges. This study addressed two research questions: (1) Which HoM were articulated by children as they reflected upon their participation in a home-based engineering program? (2) What patterns of the children’s vocabulary align with the HoM framework? Observational methods were used to examine young children’s reflections upon the process of completing low-stakes engineering projects in their home. The participants were 23 children ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade. After they engaged in the ill-structured engineering tasks with family members at home, children joined an online show-and-tell meeting to show their prototype to others while answering various questions about their processes, frustrations, and successes. Findings revealed “Resourcefulness,” “Adapting/Improving,” and “Systems Thinking” as the most common HoM expressed by children through the show-and-tell meetings. Additional analysis also highlighted how children's articulation of learning and engineering habits of mind were logical (i.e., analytical), confident (i.e., clout), and impersonal. Moreover, children’s words were product oriented, predominantly focusing on the materials and tools utilized to create their prototype. The significance of this study highlights how engaging in hands-on engineering projects in the home has the potential to develop children’s dispositions and ways of thinking common to engineers.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1759314
NSF-PAR ID:
10441045
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
American Society for Engineering Education
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. > Context • In 1972, Papert emphasized that “[t]he important difference between the work of a child in an elementary mathematics class and […]a mathematician” is “not in the subject matter […]but in the fact that the mathematician is creatively engaged […]” Along with creative, Papert kept saying children should be engaged in projects rather than problems. A project is not just a large problem, but involves sustained, active engagement, like children’s play. For Papert, in 1972, computer programming suggested a flexible construction medium, ideal for a research-lab/playground tuned to mathematics for children. In 1964, without computers, Sawyer also articulated research-playgrounds for children, rooted in conventional content, in which children would learn to act and think like mathematicians. > Problem • This target article addresses the issue of designing a formal curriculum that helps children develop the mathematical habits of mind of creative tinkering, puzzling through, and perseverance. I connect the two mathematicians/educators – Papert and Sawyer – tackling three questions: How do genuine puzzles differ from school problems? What is useful about children creating puzzles? How might puzzles, problem-posing and programming-centric playgrounds enhance mathematical learning? > Method • This analysis is based on forty years of curriculum analysis, comparison and construction, and on research with children. > Results • In physical playgrounds most children choose challenge. Papert’s ideas tapped that try-something-new and puzzle-it-out-for-yourself spirit, the drive for challenge. Children can learn a lot in such an environment, but what (and how much) they learn is left to chance. Formal educational systems set standards and structures to ensure some common learning and some equity across students. For a curriculum to tap curiosity and the drive for challenge, it needs both the playful looseness that invites exploration and the structure that organizes content. > Implications • My aim is to provide support for mathematics teachers and curriculum designers to design or teach in accord with their constructivist thinking. > Constructivist content • This article enriches Papert’s constructionism with curricular ideas from Sawyer and from the work that I and my colleagues have done 
    more » « less
  2. Research on social, emotional, and academic development of children often notes the critical role of parents. Yet, how parents perceive and engage with children’s reactions to difficulty and perceived failure, to then shape their perspective and engagement with learning remains under investigated. The current study explored children and parents’ perceptions of and reactions to frustration and failure within an out-of-school, home-based engineering program. Specifically, we asked 1) How was failure perceived by participating families? and 2) What was the subsequent action/reaction to that failure? Data were derived from post-program interviews with children and parents who participated in a home-based, elementary engineering program involving take-home kits and self-identified engineering projects. Findings derived from descriptive qualitative methods and thematic analysis illustrated development of parent thinking around failure and frustration, both within themselves and their reactions to seeing such emotions in their children. Analysis further revealed how such emotions emerge within their children and impact their experiences. These findings shed light on ways child-parent engagement and the tactics employed by parents may influence a child’s perseverance and willingness to work through difficulty. This research represents an entry point for investigating how parents perceive and react to failures and challenges, and how these reactions shape their communication around failure with their children. Such parental reactions and communication may shape children’s mindset development, perspectives, and engagement. Implications for family engagement and influence on children’s learning through academic emotions in STEM and engineering are discussed. 
    more » « less
  3. Caregivers are critical to children’s academic and social growth and development. As an adult who provides direct care and support, caregivers play a large role in what concepts and experiences children are exposed to, engage with, and pursue. A growing body of research has highlighted how caregiver influence manifests within out-of-school contexts, yet less is known about the impact of out-of-school learning and engagement from the perspectives of caregivers themselves. This study explored experiences and shifts in caregiver perceptions of shifts within themselves and their children through participation in an out-of-school home-based engineering program. Data were derived from post-program interviews with over 20 participating caregivers from three years of the program. Results illuminate various experiences and shifts in caregiver self-perception and understanding of their children’s learning and development. Specifically, these shifts included enhanced self-reflection and introspection, positive shifts in caregiver interactions with children, and observed increases in self-efficacy and complex thinking within children. Findings contribute to a growing body of knowledge of family engagement and the distinct perspective that caregivers can provide on children’s learning. Further, shifts in caregiver self-concept and self-efficacy in engaging in engineering content make a unique contribution and provide insights into ways that caregiver engagement in out-of-school learning might be adapted to incorporate more accessible learning opportunities, especially those that occur in the home. 
    more » « less
  4. The purpose of this study was to examine identity formation in young learners through engineering education. This was sought by means of understanding children’s perception of their identity as an engineer after engaging in engineering design processes and practices in their home environments. The methodology for data collection was through post-program participation interviews with children. The interviews were conducted with thirteen children between the ages of five and ten, who completed at least four researcher-developed engineering tasks in their home environments with a member of their family, typically a caregiver. The time engaged in each kit ranged from approximately 30 minutes to 3 hours. The interview questions revolved around how these children viewed engineers, and engineering, as well as how they viewed themselves and how the program changed their views and interests. The results suggest that participation in an engineering program in home environments has changed these children’s sense of identity in a variety of ways; how they viewed their ability to carry out engineering activities, their potential career trajectories, how they viewed engineering as a field, and how the program affected their interactions with their family. The significance of this study points to the benefits of introducing engineering tasks with children at a young age. 
    more » « less
  5. Researchers studying children’s reports of sexual abuse have focused on how questioners overtly assess coaching and truthfulness (e.g., “Did someone tell you what to say?”). Yet attorneys, and defense attorneys, in particular, may be motivated to ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness in subtle ways, such as with implied meaning (e.g., “Did your mom help you remember?”). Such questions may be particularly challenging for children, who may interpret statements literally, misunderstanding the suggested meaning. The purpose of this study was to examine and categorize how attorneys’ ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness. We wanted to learn how attorneys subtly accuse suggestive influence, and how frequently this occurred. We hypothesized that questions indirectly accusing suggestive influence would be common, and that defense attorneys would ask more subtle questions, and fewer overt questions, than prosecutors. We examined 7,103 lines of questioning asked by prosecutors and defense attorneys to 64 children testifying about alleged child sexual abuse. We found that 9% of all attorneys’ lines of questioning asked about suggestive influence or truthfulness. The majority (66%) of these were indirect accusations. Indirect accusations of suggestive influence spanned a range of subtleties and topics, including addressing conversational influences (e.g., coaching), incidental influences (e.g., witnessing abuse), and others. We also found defense attorneys were less likely than prosecutors to ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness overtly. We conclude that attorneys commonly ask about suggestive influence and truthfulness in subtle ways that developing children may struggle to understand, and which may result in affirmations of influence, even when allegations are true. 
    more » « less