|M.Sc Student||Danino Ofer|
|Subject||High-School Course on Engineering Design: Enhancement of|
Students' Motivation and Development of
Systems Thinking Skills
|Department||Department of Education in Science and Technology||Supervisor||Dr. Aharon Gero|
|Full Thesis text - in Hebrew|
In light of the current shortage in engineers, many educational institutions take extensive actions to increase the interest of high-school students in science and engineering. A unique, 16-lesson course has recently been developed at the Technion - Israel Institute of Technology for top 12th grade students majoring in science and engineering. On the course, “Introduction to Engineering Design”, students experience engineering design utilizing the LEGO? MINDSTORMS? Education EV3 kit, which allows them to construct vehicles and electro-mechanical systems equipped with diverse sensors through a relatively simple process. The goals of the course are to increase its graduates’ interest in science and engineering - which should have been high to begin with as a result of their background, to develop their systems thinking skills at a relatively early stage, and to train them in teamwork. On the course the students are requested to complete - on a team basis and under the guidance of experienced engineers - various tasks in increasing level of complexity.
The study characterized students’ attitudes towards the course and examined to what degree (if at all) the course’s first two objectives had been attained, i.e., increasing the students’ motivation to study science and engineering and developing their systems thinking skills. Thirty-two top 12th grade students who had chosen to attend the course participated in the study. The study utilized quantitative tools alongside qualitative ones.
The study identifies cognitive, affective and behavioral components in students’ attitudes towards the course. In the cognitive aspect, the students believe that the course gave them new knowledge and contributed to their preparation towards future academic studies, both in terms of content, level of study and atmosphere. Moreover, the students believe that the course provided them with skills of withstanding stressful situations and the ability to connect between different content worlds. In the affective domain, the students enjoyed the course and found much interest in it. In the behavioral aspect, most of the students demonstrated active participation, both in team activities and individual activities.
The findings of this study also indicate an improvement in the students’ intrinsic motivation - characterized by a medium effect size. This result may be assigned to satisfying the students’ three basic needs: autonomy, competence and relatedness. This fulfillment has apparently led, according to the self-determination theory, to a higher level of motivation.
Additionally, the study found an improvement in the students’ systems thinking skills - with a large effect size. This improvement can be assigned to the learning environment of the course - an active learning environment that includes active experience and learning from errors.
The study’s theoretical contribution is in characterizing - for the first time, as far as we are aware - factors affecting the motivation to study science and engineering and systems thinking skills in high-school students attending a unique course in engineering design. Its practical contribution may be reflected in the development of similar courses for high-school students. This contribution becomes more important in light of the severe shortage in engineers and the necessity to develop systems thinking skills among engineering students.