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Conceptualizing Early Childhood STEM Interest Development as a Distributed System: A Preliminary Framework

May 6, 2016 | Public Programs, Informal/Formal Connections
Head Start on Engineering (HSE) is a collaborative, NSF-funded research and practice project designed to develop and refine a theoretical model of early childhood, engineering-related interest development. The project focuses on Head Start families with four-year-old children from low-income communities and is being carried out collaboratively by researchers, science center educators, and a regional Head Start program. In this paper, we outline a preliminary conceptual framework for describing early childhood STEM interest development, which will be used to guide data collection and program development for the HSE project. Departing significantly from past conceptualizations, our approach frames interest development as a distributed, family-level phenomenon that is characterized by shifts in beliefs, behaviors, and resources across children and parents. To begin, we highlight current challenges in studying early childhood interest development, and family learning more broadly, that have motivated work on this systems-level approach. We then describe three theoretical perspectives (the four-phase model of interest development, lines of practice theory, and distributed cognition) that have informed this project and how we have applied these perspectives to our understanding of early childhood interest development.


  • 2013 06 21 IMG 0768
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • 2015 03 12 IMG 20130207 112101
    University of Notre Dame
  • Pam Greenough Corrie
    Mt. Hood Community College Head Start
  • REVISE logo
    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • Veronika Nuñez
    Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
  • 2013 11 21 Dierking photo
    Oregon State University
  • Screen Shot 2020 04 28 at 09 55 04
    Institute for Learning Innovation
  • Citation


    Funding Program: AISL
    Award Number: 1515628
    Funding Amount: 299070
    Resource Type: Reference Materials
    Discipline: Engineering
    Audience: Pre-K Children (0-5) | Families | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
    Environment Type: Public Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Informal/Formal Connections | Pre-K/Early Childhood Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Low Socioeconomic Status

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