Date of Graduation
College of Education and Human Services
Curriculum & Instruction/Literacy Studies
M Cecil Smith
Educational robotics (ER) combines accessible and age-appropriate building materials, programmable interfaces, and computer coding to teach science and mathematics using the engineering design process. ER has been shown to increase K-12 students' understanding of STEM concepts, and can develop students' self-confidence and interest in STEM. As educators struggle to adapt their current science teaching practices to meet the new interdisciplinary nature of the Next Generation Science Standards, ER has the potential to simultaneously integrate STEM disciplines, engage and inspire students in mathematics and science, and build connections to STEM careers. One challenge is a lack of documented models for preparing educators, particularly at the elementary level, to effectively use robotics in their classrooms. The lack of scholarship on appropriate robotics platforms for elementary learners, reliable techniques of delivering professional development in ER, or standardized instruments that can reliably measure elementary educators' self-efficacy with robotics suggests there is a need for such research. The primary purpose of this study was to investigate the impact of a four-hour, hands-on, ER professional development workshop on K-5th grade educators' attitudes about their ability to teach ER, the value (utility) of the technology, and their desire to use it (intent). An 18-question survey was administered before (pre-) and after (post-) the workshop, as well as a third time after educators had an opportunity to use robotics with students (post-post). In order to extend and explain the quantitative data, 60% of the educators who completed all three surveys were also interviewed. This study sought to determine if any of the trained educators also participated in after-school robotics competitions, and if so what impact that had on their attitudes of using ER. Results comparing the pre to post workshop means determined that there were statistically significant differences with large effect sizes in educators' attitudes across all three subscales. The interviews supported the conclusion that the workshop and classroom kits are important for successful implementation of ER in classrooms. Post use surveys did not result in statistically significant differences in educators' attitudes, demonstrating persistence of attitudes consistent with the interview results that revealed educators value the "hands-on" nature of ER which they believe increases student engagement in STEM and cross-curricular learning. A case-study of one educator suggests that participation in FIRSTRTM LEGORTM League Jr. increased the skills, confidence, and engagement of both the teacher and students which led to the integration of engineering practices, and school-wide interest in ER. This study demonstrates the importance of high-quality professional development in increasing educators' self-efficacy with using ER with elementary students, and suggests that new tablet-based, wireless robotics platforms, such as the LEGORTM WeDo 2.0 enable younger learners to engaged with this technology. Additional research is necessary to better understand the impact of ER on students, and to identify and study schools where ER helped lead a transformation of the teaching toward constructionism. It is vital for the success of our children and our nation that we engage and inspire students in STEM subjects and career pathways at an early age if we are to meet the needs of the 21st century job market, reduce disparities in STEM fields, and maintain our place in the global economy.
Ensign, Todd I., "Elementary Educators' Attitudes about the Utility of Educational Robotics and Their Ability and Intent to Use It with Students" (2017). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 5546.