​Beyond STEM: The development of virtues in early childhood education through robotics

Marina Umaschi Bers
Tufts University

Project Summary

The growing push for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education is born from the both the expanding frontiers of modern technology and the landscape of today’s job market. Teachers and administrators are steeping the classroom experience in computing to prepare even the youngest students for a technology-infused world. Unfortunately, this focus on STEM may have diverted attention from development of character strengths needed to form a whole person. Curiosity, creativity, and generosity are crucial to the development of better citizens and better human beings the same way that STEM is crucial to the development of the scientific and technically-sophisticated mind. The purpose of this project is to investigate how teachers might use a robotics program to integrate technical and character education.

The pilot project will engage groups of kindergarten teachers from Buenos Aires and Boston, with classrooms representing a range of religious and secular schools. The teachers will be trained on developing six-week curricula integrating robotics. The project team will evaluate the teachers pre- and post-training, and will conduct longitudinal evaluation of the teachers’ students. The team will analyze change trajectories on the three character virtues through qualitative and quantitative methods, and will conduct a comparative analysis between the two study sites.

At the end of the experiment, the team will bring educators together for an online conference where the educators will share their work and plan for sustainable and scalable efforts. Investigators will also evaluate and document the experience, and publish the results in academic journals. Results of the study will be available to the popular press.

Project Details

Project Duration

1 January 201931 December 2020

Core Funding Area

Character Virtue Development

Region of Activity

North America

TWCF Number

0283

Amount Awarded

$233,428

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