Background: The motivation for this work is built upon the premise that there is a need for research-based materials for design-based science instruction. In this paper, a small portion of our work investigating the impact of a LEGO (TM) engineering unit on fourth grade students' preconceptions and understanding of animals is presented.
Background: The motivation for this work is built upon the premise that there is
a need for research-based materials for design-based science instruction. In this
paper, a small portion of our work investigating the impact of a LEGOTM engineering
unit on fourth grade students’ preconceptions and understanding of animals
Purpose: The driving questions for our work are: (1) What is the impact of an
engineering-design-based curricular module on students’ understanding of habitat
and animal classification? (2) What are students’ misconceptions regarding
animal classification and habitat?
Sample: The study was conducted in an inner-city K-8 school in the northeastern
region of the United States. There were two fourth grade classrooms in the
school. The first classroom included seven girls and nine boys, whereas the other
classroom included eight girls and eight boys. All fourth grade students participated
in the study.
Design and methods: In answering the research questions mixed-method
approaches are used. Data collection methods included pre- and post-tests, preand
post-interviews, student journals, and classroom observations. Identical preand
post-tests were administered to measure students’ understanding of animals.
They included four multiple-choice and six open-ended questions. Identical preand
post-interviews were administered to explore students’ in-depth understanding
Results: Our results show that students significantly increased their performance
after instruction on both the multiple-choice questions (t = -3.586, p = .001) and
the open-ended questions (t = −5.04, p = .000). They performed better on the
post interviews as well. Also, it is found that design-based instruction helped students
comprehend core concepts of a life science subject, animals.
Conclusions: Based on these results, the main argument of the study is that engineering
design is a useful framework for teaching not only physical sciencerelated
subjects, but also life science subjects in elementary science classrooms.