Lippard Et Al-2017-Journal of Engineering Education

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  EngineeringThinkinginPrekindergartenChildren:ASystematicLiteratureReview ChristineN.Lippard ,  MonicaH.Lamm, and KatieL.Riley IowaStateUniversity  Abstract  Background  Children begin foundational learning in early childhood that sets the stagefor later learning and academic success. Research regarding engineering in early childhoodis limited yet growing. Purpose  Because interest in engineering in early childhood is growing, this article reviewsresearch regarding interactions, materials, and activities that promote prekindergartenchildren’s engineering thinking, and in turn how this engineering thinking is related to devel-opmental outcomes. Scope/Method  The initial search for papers with relevant keywords returned over 2,000papers. Upon review, 27 papers pertained to children age five or under and to engineering. The following research questions were addressed: What (a) interactions and (b) materials andactivities promote prekindergarten children’s engineering thinking? What developmental out-comes are related to children’s engineering thinking? Conclusions  The small body of research regarding engineering thinking in prekindergartenchildren only allows for a few limited conclusions. Specifically, results indicate that childrendisplay engineering thinking when actively engaged with materials, adults are better able tofacilitate engineering thinking if they have received some guidance on both engineering prin-ciples and asking children questions, and children’s engineering thinking can promote early math skills and possibly social and emotional development. However, a consistent limitationin the literature is that measures are underdeveloped and their psychometric properties areoften unestablished. Keywords  systematic review; early childhood; prekindergarten; engineering thinking;engineering education Introduction  The last several years have brought an increasing concern among education stakeholders regard-ing the state of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in the UnitedStates. Currently only 16% of high school seniors in the United States are considered proficientin math, and the United States ranks 17th among industrialized nations in science (U.S. Depart-ment of Education, 2016). A frequent suggestion for addressing these concerns is to increasechildren’s early exposure to and engagement in STEM activities (NAE & NRC, 2009). The natural curiosity of children ages three to five makes the prekindergarten developmental  Journal of Engineering Education  V C  2017 ASEE. July 2017, Vol. 106, No. 3, pp. 454–474 DOI 10.1002/jee.20174  period an important time for introducing and reinforcing STEM thinking and practices. Thereare promising indicators that engineering may be the optimal entry point for introducing STEMconcepts, and engineering experiences may increase student motivation for greater achievementin math, science, and technological literacy (NAE & NRC, 2009).In line with the National Academy of Engineering’s description of engineering (NAE,2016), we define engineering thinking as goal-oriented thinking that addresses problems anddecisions within given constraints by drawing on available resources, both material resourcesand human capital. Children use goal-oriented thinking to address problems and make deci-sions both within traditional engineering play, such as block building, and in other activitiessuch as dramatic play and art. Children also use engineering thinking in ways that are embed-ded within their everyday lives, in addition to engaging in designated engineering projects oractivities at school. In other words, we broaden the definition of engineering thinking beyondnarrower definitions that are focused on the engineering design cycle.In fact, prekindergarten children are primed for engineering thinking. Recent work fromleading psychologists indicates that prekindergarten age children are particularly open to tak-ing in information and effective at using that information to formulate hypotheses (Lucas,Bridgers, Griffiths, & Gopnik, 2014). Children are more likely to explore broadly and testhypotheses when given open-ended opportunities with materials, as opposed to directinstruction (Bonawitz et al., 2011). When presented with situations with similar underlyingproblems, but differing materials or contexts, children as young as three are able to transfersolutions from one context to another (Brown & Kane, 1988). For children as young as four,transfer of information is better when children provide the explanation for the first solution,as compared to when an adult provides an explanation (Brown & Kane, 1988). In short, chil-dren naturally identify problems and explore possible solutions.In light of the growing recognition and momentum for the incorporation of engineeringin early childhood (Moomaw, 2014; Sharapan, 2012), there is a strong need to understand what promotes children’s engineering thinking and, in turn, what other developmental out-comes engineering thinking promotes. Constructivist (Dewey, 1938/1997; Piaget, 1972) andsociocultural (Vygotsky, 1978/2001) theories offer some suggestions for what might promotechildren’s engineering thinking. Constructivist theories suggest that learners construct knowl-edge through active interactions with materials and the environment (Piaget, 1972) and thatknowledge is acquired when the context is meaningful for the learner (Dewey, 1938/1997).Sociocultural theory suggests that learning occurs in the context of interactions between indi- viduals, typically between an individual and a more competent other person. Both learningitself and the process through which learning should occur are social (Vygotsky, 1978/2001). These theories suggest that in order to develop engineering thinking, children must exploreconcepts of engineering with hands-on materials that are meaningful to them and have activepartners in this exploration. Further, interactions that encourage exploration must be positiveand productive; that is, the interaction should be enjoyable for all parties and all parties mustadd something of value.In line with these learning theories, we view the prekindergarten years as a prime develop-mental period for developing engineering thinking. To date, research on engineering thinkingin prekindergarten has been limited, with little in common among papers to build a con-nected research base. Particularly relevant where research is limited, Borrego, Foster, andFroyd (2014) have called for the use of systematic literature reviews to “extract trends, pat-terns, relationships, and the overall picture from the collected studies” (p. 46) in engineeringeducation in order to organize what is known and to then propose future research directions  Engineering Thinking in Prekindergarten Children  455  for a given field. To this end, this study undertook a systematic review of the engineeringresearch literature about early childhood engineering. PurposeandResearchQuestions Our purpose in undertaking this systematic literature review was to provide an overview andanalysis of research related to promoting engineering thinking, and in turn how engineeringthinking benefits children’s development and academic achievement. To that end, we set outto address two research questions: What (a) interactions and (b) materials and activities pro-mote prekindergarten children’s engineering thinking? What developmental outcomes arerelated to children’s engineering thinking? Method Phase1:DefinitionsandDatabaseSearching Search criteria   Our approach to this systematic literature review followed recommenda-tions and methods from previous literature reviews in the field of engineering education(Borrego, Cutler, Prince, Henderson, & Froyd, 2013; Borrego et al., 2014; Borrego, Foster,& Froyd, 2015; Moher, Liberati, Tetzlaff, Altman, & PRISMA Group, 2015). Given thatour primary goals were to determine what interactions and what materials and activities pro-mote prekindergarten children’s engineering thinking and the developmental outcomes asso-ciated with engineering thinking in early childhood, we chose three databases for our initialsearch: Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Academic Search Premier,both available through EBSCO, and Web of Science. Additionally, given the emergingnature of the field of engineering in early childhood, we searched within the American Soci-ety for Engineering Education (ASEE) conference proceedings. In each of these databases, we searched using the search string “engineering” plus each of the following terms: prekinder-garten, pre-kindergarten, preschool, early childhood, or young children (e.g., “‘engineering’and ‘preschool’”; “‘engineering’ and ‘early childhood’”). We limited our search to peer-reviewed papers and conference proceedings between January 2000 and November 2015. Thefirst and last authors conducted these searches, which returned 2,014 items, of which 1,983 were unique papers (see Figure 1). Initial review   We determined that the criteria for retaining papers in the sample requiredthat the paper be relevant to children age five years or younger, including adults interacting with these children, and address one of the research questions. With these criteria, the firstand last authors reviewed the titles of the papers and removed those that clearly did not meetthe criteria (e.g., the title specified children were in first grade). At this stage 1,912 papers were eliminated from the sample, and 71 papers were retained. The most common reasonsfor eliminating papers were a focus on children over the age of five, a focus on math or science with little on engineering, and use of the term “engineering” for a meaning outside of the dis-cipline of engineering (for example, as in the title “Engineering Children’s Physical Activity:Making Active Choices Easy” [Nelson & Woods, 2007]). Review of abstracts and additional sampling   All authors independently read and madenotes about the abstracts for each of the 71 papers to determine if inclusion criteria were met. We then discussed whether papers should be eliminated or retained for reviewing of full text. When consensus to eliminate the paper was not reached, the paper was retained for full textreview. This process resulted in elimination of 38 papers. In addition, the last author 456  Lippard, Lamm, & Riley   examined the publically available curriculum vitae and ResearchGate profile of each authorrepresented in the remaining papers to make sure other important papers were not missed. Titles and abstracts of papers by these authors were also reviewed. Additionally, we extendedour initial search time limit to include December 2015, which returned one additional paper.Another paper was suggested by an expert in the field. These additional sampling stepsresulted in the addition of ten papers, for a total of 43 qualifying papers. Full text review   All authors participated in the next step by reading the full texts of 43papers. Each paper was read by one author who took notes on the main ideas of the paper, Records identified through searching 3 electronic databases (n=2014)Records screened by title (n = 1983) Records screened more closely by title & abstract (n = 71)Full-text papers assessed for eligibility (n =43)Records excluded due to topic (n = 1912) Records excluded due to duplication (n=31) Records excluded due to topic (n = 38)  Additional records identified through additional strategies (n = 10)Records excluded based on inclusion criteria (n = 16) Total papers in sample (n = 27) Figure 1  PRISMA flow chart of paper search and selection process (Moher,Liberati, Tetzlaff, Altman, & The PRISMA Group, 2009).  Engineering Thinking in Prekindergarten Children  457
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