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

Friday, May 6, 2016
Resource Type:
Conference Proceedings | Reference Materials
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Museum and Science Center Programs, Informal/Formal Connections, Pre-K/Early Childhood Programs
Pre-K Children (0-5) | Families | Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Access and Inclusion: 
Low Socioeconomic Status
Institute for Learning Innovation, University of Notre Dame, Mt. Hood Community College Head Start, Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Oregon State University

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.

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Associated Projects

Team Members

Pam Greenough CorriePam Greenough CorrieAuthor
Marcie BenneMarcie BenneAuthor
Veronika NuñezVeronika NuñezAuthor

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