Date of Award

Spring 5-13-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Middle and Secondary Education

First Advisor

Iman Chahine

Second Advisor

Audrey Leroux

Third Advisor

Patrick Enderle

Fourth Advisor

Donna Whiting


To address the need to improve student achievement in STEM disciplines, effort has been made to develop a new of tools for STEM education (Bybee, 2013). The Robotics and Engineering Design Curriculum (REDC) provides students an opportunity to develop systems thinking abilities while integrating science and mathematics concepts. Using an exploratory case study approach within a situated cognition framework, this study examines the effects of using REDC on 54 eighth grade students’ performance and engagement during 5-week integrative STEM instruction in the mathematics and science class. Situational factors that contribute to students’ success in learning STEM concepts are also examined.

This study employed mixed-methods techniques. The quantitative data collected included pre/post achievement tests and pre/post motivation and engagement scale (MES) surveys. Quantitative data analysis included reliability analyses and paired sample t-tests. The results of the reliability analyses for the achievement test and MES survey report acceptable Cronbach’s alpha (.843 and .787, respectively). Qualitative data collected included semi-structured interviews, field notes and student artifacts (engineering notebook and printed prototypes). Qualitative data analysis used coding procedures suggested by Saldana (2012) where patterns were identified and grouped to allow the emergence of themes. Collectively, the data was triangulated to support six emerging themes. The emerging themes regarding the effect of using the curriculum are as follows: (1) the developing anthropomorphic relationship with the robot enhances engagement, (2) engagement is impacted by purposeful and intentional physical action, and (3) purposeful collaboration promotes engagement through the construction of meaning and interaction. Three themes emerged identifying factors that contribute to success: (1) learning environment must have transformative learning potential, (2) learning experiences underpinned by design thinking contribute to success and (3) contextual relevance is enhanced when students have the freedom to their design learning journey. This study addresses the need for research into the implementation of 3-D design and manufacturing in the middle school classroom.

Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. National Science Teachers Association.

Saldaña, J. (2012). The coding manual for qualitative researchers (No. 14). Los Angeles, Ca: Sage.