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Teaching Habitat and Animal Classification to Fourth Graders Using an Engineering-Design Model

Research in Science & Technological Education Volume 32, Number 2, ISSN 0263-5143


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. 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, pre- and post-interviews, student journals, and classroom observations. Identical pre- and post-tests were administered to measure students' understanding of animals. They included four multiple-choice and six open-ended questions. Identical pre- and post-interviews were administered to explore students' in-depth understanding of animals. Results: Our results show that students significantly increased their performance after instruction on both the multiple-choice questions (t?=?-3.586, p = 0.001) and the open-ended questions (t?=?-5.04, p?=?0.000). 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 science-related subjects, but also life science subjects in elementary science classrooms.


Marulcu, I. (2014). Teaching Habitat and Animal Classification to Fourth Graders Using an Engineering-Design Model. Research in Science & Technological Education, 32(2), 135-161. Retrieved June 2, 2020 from .

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