Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Dissertation


Engineering--Study and teaching (Elementary)--Middle West; Engineering--Study and teaching (Elementary); Middle West; Academic theses;


Many concerned leaders of industry and government believe the ability to sustain our quality of life and address the grand challenges of our times is contingent upon the successful engagement of our younger children in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). What STEM curricula, specifically engineering curricula, should address, how the curriculum should be delivered, and how the children construct an understanding of engineering are still unanswered questions. Engineering curriculum is beginning to emerge for elementary students, but does more to teach children about engineering than allowing them to develop engineering habits of mind.

This qualitative study used constant comparative methodology to examine the behaviors of first graders in an urban, Midwestern constructivist classroom as they designed and built marble runs in a physical knowledge center. Data was collected from video recordings of children building over the course of one year. Ongoing analysis uncovered three behavioral motifs: Construction, Communication, and Collaboration. The motifs and behavioral subcategories under each motif were each tested for inter-rater reliability and resulted in high percentages of agreement ranging from 87% to 98%. Analysis of data found young children are far more capable of engineering behaviors than current curricula allow. Results of the study include operational definitions of engineering habits of mind in young children, illustrations of how children's behaviors in the design process closely resemble engineers in the field, and examples of how young children independently pose and solve macro, meso, and micro problems.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Doctor of Education


Department of Curriculum and Instruction

First Advisor

Jill M. Uhlenberg


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Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (168 pages)



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