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Learning to be an Engineer: Implications for the education system


Abstract and Figures

This report identifies four principles that underpin the kinds of teaching - signature pedagogies - which are most likely to encourage young people to develop a passion for engineering in today's schools and colleges. It shows that teachers find it helpful to reframe engineering as a set of habits of mind, can apply the concept of signature pedagogy in practice and, with targeted professional learning can begin a process of changing their own teaching practices. Learning to be an Engineer identifies three key elements of an engineering signature pedagogy - the engineering design process itself, tinkering (playful experimentation) and authentic engagement with engineers.
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Learning to be an Engineer
Implications for the
education system
March 2017
Learning to be an Engineer i
Learning to be an Engineer
Implications for schools
A report for the Royal Academy of Engineering
Full report, March 2017
ISBN: 978-1-909327-31-3
© Royal Academy of Engineering 2017
This report is available to download from:
Project website:
Professor Bill Lucas
Dr Janet Hanson
Dr Lynne Bianchi
Dr Jonathan Chippindall
About the Centre for Real-World Learning at the
University of Winchester (CRL)
CRL is a research centre focusing on the teaching
of learning dispositions. CRL undertook the original
research, Thinking like an Engineer, published by the
Royal Academy of Engineering, which identies six
engineering habits of mind.
About the Science & Engineering Education
Research and Innovation Hub at the University
ofManchester (SEERIH)
SEERIH aims to provide continuing professional
development that enthuses teachers, young people and
their communities about the wonders of science and
engineering in the world around us.
About Primary Engineer
Primary Engineer is a not-for-prot organisation that
brings together teachers and engineers to engage
primary and secondary pupils with engineering through
projects mapped to the curriculum.
Authors Acknowledgements
Our thanks to:
The education team at the Royal Academy
Dr David Barlex, one of our expert advisers, for
reading the draft report and making many excellent
Our expert advisers: Dr Colin Brown, Ed Chambers,
JoseChambers, Marilyn Comrie, Professor Neil
Downie, Peter Finegold, Professor Peter Goodhew,
RichardGreen, David Hill, Lise McCaery, Professor
Adrian Oldknow, Professor John Perkins, David Perry,
Chris Rochester, PatWalters.
Our ‘teacher heroes’ who inspired their learners to ‘think
like an engineer’ and contributed to the case studies.
Our ‘engineering heroes’ who worked with our teachers
to inspire the next generation of engineers.
The Comino Foundation and Gordon Cook Foundation,
which enabled us to provide additional support via the
Expansive Education Network and to schools inScotland.
ii Royal Academy of Engineering
Table of contents
Foreword 1
Executive summary 2
1. Introduction 5
2. Wider educational context 7
2.1 Changes facing schools 7
2.2 Current issues in education for engineering 8
2.3 Opportunities for engineering habits of mind (EHoM) in the
National Curriculum and the Curriculum for Excellence 10
2.4 Integrated STEM programmes 12
2.5 Summary 13
3. Our approach to the research 15
3.1 A Theory of Change 15
3.2 Research design and methods 16
3.3 Evaluation methods 17
3.4 Data analysis and reporting 17
3.5 Summary 18
4. The study 19
4.1 Overview 19
4.2 Thinking Like an Engineer (TLaE) 19
4.3 Tinker Tailor Robot Pi (TTRP) 20
4.4 Primary Engineer in Scotland 21
5. Cultivating engineering habits of mind (EHoM) 23
5.1 Four principles for cultivating engineering habits of mind 23
6. Testing our Theory of Change (TofC) 27
6.1 Using the four principles 27
6.2 How teachers built understanding of EHoM 27
6.3 How teachers created the climate for EHoM to ourish 28
6.4 How teachers used signature pedagogies 33
6.5 How teachers engaged learners 39
6.6 Summary 42
Learning to be an Engineer iii
7. Outcomes for learners 43
7.1 Growth in learners’ uency with habits of mind 43
7.2 Evidence of developing engineering growth mindsets 46
7.3 Impact on literacy, numeracy and oracy 47
7.4 Self-managed learners and impact on classroom management 48
7.5 Impact on learners’ understanding of engineering 48
7.6 Summary of outcomes for learners 50
8. Outcomes for teachers 51
8.1 Teachers as risk takers and improvisers 51
8.2 Teachers as collaborators 52
8.3 Teachers as reectors 52
8.4 Teachers’ condence in engaging with engineers 55
8.5 Summary of outcomes for teachers 56
9. Enablers and barriers for cultivating engineering habits of mind 57
9.1 A conducive school culture 57
9.2 Alignment with schools’ approaches to teaching and learning 58
9.3 Eective integration of EHoM into primary and secondary curricula 59
9.4 Validation from external assessments 61
9.5 Eective tracking of learner progress 62
9.6 Timetabling, learning spaces and resources for teaching 65
9.7 Availability of engineers locally 65
9.8 Role of leadership in sustaining EHoM interventions 67
10. Conclusions and implications 69
10.1 Conclusions 69
10.2 Implications 71
References 74
Appendix 1 Stages and ages in English and Scottish curricula 83
Appendix 2 Participating schools andteachers 84
Appendix 3 Engineering habits of mind self-report survey 86
iv Royal Academy of Engineering
Table of contents
Case studies
Case Study A: Medway University Technical College, Chatham, Kent 29
Case Study B: Christ the King RC Primary School, Salford 30
Case Study C: New Forest Academy, Hampshire 33
Case Study D: Gomer Junior School, Gosport 34
Case Study E: St Thomas’ Primary School, Stockport 35
Case Study F: University Technical College Reading, Berkshire 36
Case Study G: Bohunt School, Liphook, Hampshire 38
Case Study H: Reading College, Reading, Berkshire 42
Case Study I: Camelsdale Primary School, Haslemere, West Sussex 47
Case Study J: Barmulloch Primary School, Glasgow 49
Case Study K: The JCB Academy, Rocester, Staordshire 53
Case Study L: Manchester Robot Orchestra Challenge 59
Case Study M: St Ambrose Barlow RC High School, Salford 60
Table 1: Learning to be an engineer – a four step theory of change 15
Table 2: Six engineering habits of mindand 12 sub-habits 43
Figure 1: An overview of theresearch 3
Figure 2: Engineering habits of mind 5
Figure 3: Key transition points for young people across various stages of
education towards engineering (Morgan et al., 2016:14) 9
Figure 4: Computational thinking (Computing at School/Barefoot
Computing, 2016) 10
Figure 5: Pupil design decisions in a designing and making assignment 11
Figure 6: Overview of the three project interventions 22
Figure 7: The engineering design process
(EiE, 2016, cited in Lottero-Perdue, 2016:3) 24
Figure 8: Trajectory of professional development (Bianchi, 2016:73) 73
Learning to be an Engineer v
vi Royal Academy of Engineering
AI Appreciative inquiry
ASCL Association of School and College Leaders
CBI Confederation of British Industry
CPD Continuing professional development
CRL Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester
D&T Design and technology
DATA Design and Technology Association
DBEIS Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
DfE Department for Education
EBacc English Baccalaureate
EHoM Engineering habits of mind
EDP Engineering design process
FE Further Education
GTC Scotland General Teaching Council for Scotland
IESIS Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland
IET Institution of Engineering and Technology
IMechE Institution of Mechanical Engineers
Key Stage The English National Curriculum is organised into block of years called ‘Key Stages’
LEP Local Enterprise Partnership
NEA Non examined assessment
Ofsted Oce for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills
SCQF Scottish Credit and Qualications Framework
SEERIH Science & Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub at the University
SEN Special educational needs
STEAM Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Design and Mathematics.
An international movement that champions the integration of art and design with the
other four STEM subjects to enhance creativity and innovation
STEM Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics
STEMNET Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network that delivers the STEM
Ambassadors programme
TLaE Thinking Like an Engineer
Tof C Theory of Change
TTRP Tinker Tailor Robot Pi
UTC University Technical College
VLE Virtual learning environment
WISE A Campaign to promote women in science, technology and engineering
Glossary of abbreviations and terms
Learning to be an Engineer 1
The Academy welcomes this important new report exploring how engineering
habits of mind – the thinking characteristics, skills and attributes of engineers
– can be integrated in the real world of busy schools and colleges to engage the
next generation of engineers. This follows an earlier piece of analytic research,
Thinking like an Engineer, which worked with engineers and engineering
educators to develop these engineering habits of minds.
This is particularly important now due to the well-documented shortage of
engineering skills in the UK. This shortage not only impacts on the engineering
profession, but the whole economy due to the pervasive nature of engineering
skills. The engineering community is concerned that young people and the wider
public do not understand engineering’s valuable contribution to society and the
exciting, diverse career opportunities it can oer. Therefore, in order to address
the engineering skills gap, it is essential we ignite young people’s interest in this
exciting, creative profession.
This report provides insight into the key barriers that must be tackled in order
to inspire young people throughout their education and improve the supply of
engineering skills. Engineering employers, the engineering teaching and learning
community, educators and the government must work together to help grow
the supply and quality of engineers. The Academy is grateful to the authors for
highlighting practical strategies for developing teaching and learning that will
encourage a passion for engineering in young people in the UK.
Professor Helen Atkinson CBE FREng
Chair of the Education and Skills Committee
2 Royal Academy of Engineering
This report, commissioned by the Royal Academy of Engineering,
explores the ways schools can create better and more engaging learning
opportunities for would-be engineers.
It builds upon the six ‘engineering habits of mind’ (EHoM): systems-thinking,
adapting, problem-nding, creative problem-solving, visualising, and improving.
These were identied in earlier research, Thinking like an Engineer: implications
for the education system (2014).
The report identies four principles that underpin the kinds of teaching which are
most likely to encourage young people to develop a passion for engineering in
today’s busy schools and colleges:
1. Clear understanding of engineering habits of mind by teachers and
2. The creation of a culture in which these habits ourish.
3. Selection of the best teaching and learning methods, the ‘signature
pedagogy’ of engineering.
4. An active engagement with learners as young engineers.
The research demonstrates that teachers:
1. Find the reframing of engineering as a set of habits of mind to be a helpful
and practical way of moving beyond the often contested space of individual
subject disciplines.
2. Can apply the concept of signature pedagogy in practice, teaching in ways
that develop these engineering habits of mind appropriate to their own
educational contexts.
3. With targeted professional learning support, can implement and evaluate
ways of designing new curricula using these dierent pedagogies, so
beginning a process of improving their own teaching practices.
Learning to be an Engineer identies some essential elements of a signature
pedagogy for engineering: the engineering design process, ‘tinkering’ (an
approach to playful experimentation), and authentic, sustained engagement
with engineers. It also describes many positive outcomes for learners taught in
this way, including: increased uency in the key habits of mind, the development
of ‘growth mindsets’, improvements in literacy, numeracy and oracy, enhanced
self-management skills, and better understanding of engineering. It describes
many benets to the capability and condence of teachers, in particular their
engagement with practising engineers.
The report identies some key barriers to progress and suggests practical
strategies for overcoming these challenges. Enablers include: a conducive school
culture, positive alignment with existing teaching and learning approaches,
eective integration of habits of mind within subjects, appropriate external
validation; practical methods of tracking learner progression, availability of
engineers in the locality and above all, proactive school leadership at all levels.
Executive summary
Learning to be an Engineer 3
Executive summary
Based on the ndings of the report, the Royal Academy of Engineering
makes six broad recommendations:
n The need for more extensive promotion of EHoM as a mechanism for
improving science capital in young people, and the provision of more
resources for teachers who wish to adopt the pedagogic approaches
identied in the report.
n The enhancement of existing professional learning networks for teachers
to encourage collaborative professional learning and ensure the more rapid
spread of eective pedagogies and curriculum design for engineering
education in schools.
n The potential synergies between engineering, design and technology
(D&T), computing and science, including the use of thematic curricula with
real-world contexts, should be actively explored in all stages of the school
n A more strategic focus on school leadership in driving change in support of
engineering education should be developed.
n More research to understand how progression in EHoM can be measured.
n More research on how more engineers can best be engaged in schools in the
ways described in the report.
The research represents the output of a collaboration between the Centre
for Real-World Learning (CRL) at the University of Winchester, the Science &
Engineering Education Research and Innovation Hub (SEERIH) at the University of
Manchester and Primary Engineer, a not-for-prot organisation supported by the
Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE). Each partner engaged in targeted
professional development with schools in southern England, Greater Manchester
and Glasgow/East Ayrshire to support teachers to embed EHoM in their teaching.
Figure 1, below, describes the research diagrammatically.
Schools in
Schools in
Glasgow & East
College in
Outputs and
Outputs and
Outputs and
Data analysis,
report drafting,
validation of
case studies,
expert review
of report
3 project
learning with
Evaluation of
to be an
Figure 1: An overview of theresearch
4 Royal Academy of Engineering
Learning to be an Engineer 5
In 2014 the Centre for Real-World
Learning and the Royal Academy of
Engineering published the report
Thinking like an Engineer: Implications
for the education system, which
was based on research exploring the
ways engineers think and act (Lucas,
Hanson and Claxton, 2014). Central
to this research was a reframing of
engineering as a series of ‘engineering
habits of mind’ (EHoM) – systems-
thinking, adapting, problem-nding,
creative problem-solving, visualising,
and improving, see Figure 2.
In the same report we looked at how
best such habits could be cultivated in
schools. Drawing on extensive research
and informed by discussions with
experienced engineers and engineer
educators, we suggested a number of
signature pedagogies (Shulman, 2005)
likely to be most eective. At the core of
these is the engineering design process.
This report describes the results of a
small-scale intervention study spread
across two regions of England and in
Glasgow and East Ayrshire in Scotland.
It documents a proof of concept trial
that sought to establish how schools
can adopt the EHoM framework, which
teaching methods are most helpful and
the impact of adopting this approach.
The research began in late 2014 and
was completed in summer 2016. It
involved 33 schools and one further
education college, 84 teachers and
more than 3,000 pupils. The report
was a collaboration between a largely
psychology-inuenced research group
focusing on dispositional teaching
at the University of Winchester
(CRL), a science and engineering
education centre at the University
of Manchester (SEERIH), and a third
sector organisation, Primary Engineer.
All three partners shared the aim of
bringing fresh thinking to the challenge
of teaching engineering in schools and
are united by the belief that primary
and secondary education is the most
eective period in which to enthuse
young people about engineering.
Each partner designed a programme
of support for schools to embed
1. Introduction
Figure 2: Engineering habits of mind
things ’ that
work and making
things ’ work
6 Royal Academy of Engineering
EHoM using a range of dierent
approaches. While each project
had its own distinctive focus they
all incorporated the use of EHoM
to promote engineering in schools.
Each intervention involved teacher
professional development, curriculum
planning and the use of one or more
EHoM as a focus of activity with a
particular group of learners. This report
provides a combined account of these
three projects and the research ndings
are derived from an evaluation of the
teachers’ activities and the resources
they produced.
Throughout our report we use the
phrase ‘engineering education’ as
a proxy for ways in which schools
and colleges could provide more
opportunities for young people to
experience engineering. This is not
to suggest that more engineering
qualications are needed in school, but
that engineering education could refer
to any aspect of the school curriculum
or enrichment activity within which
EHoM could be incorporated to engage
future engineers.
The report also provides a brief
overview of the wider educational
context within which the projects were
undertaken and notes the challenges
and opportunities oered by some
of the changes currently aecting
education in the UK.
Learning to be an Engineer 7
2.1 Changes facing schools
While this research was being
conducted, schools have gone through
a time of considerable change,
especially in England. There are three
main elements of this change: the
status of schools, their curriculum and
their accountability. The engineering
education community is aware of the
potential impact of these changes on
the challenge to engage more young
people with engineering. The Royal
Academy of Engineering suggested
that seven areas need to be addressed
if ‘meaningful increases in the number
of young people pursuing engineering
as a career’ are to be achieved (Morgan
et al., 2016:7):
n Perceptions of young people,
their parents/carers and other
inuencers, and attitudes towards
n Teachers and teaching.
n Under-representation of specic
n Careers advice and guidance,
curriculum enhancement and
employer engagement.
n Curricula, qualications,
assessment and accountability
n Pathways to progression.
n Facilities and capacity in further
education (FE) and higher
education (HE).
In our work we focused on how
teachers and teaching can change, and
in this section we briey review how
the wider educational environment
might inuence opportunities for
cultivating EHoM.
School and college status
In England there has been a continued
focus on academisation, with a renewed
emphasis on encouraging primary
schools as well as secondaries to
become academies. Within the overall
academy ‘brand’ two new categories
of secondary school have been
established that aord opportunities for
promoting STEM, (Science, Technology,
Engineering and Mathematics):
University Technical Colleges (UTCs) and
Studio Schools. UTCs are schools for 14–
19 year olds that specialise in providing
technically-oriented education.
Developed in response for demands
to increase the nation’s advanced
technical skills, each UTC is sponsored
by employers and a local university. The
curriculum includes projects based on
real-world problems in collaboration with
employers and the school environment
emphasises a professional workplace
culture. There are now 48 UTCs and
by 2018 it is expected that there will
be over 55 across England (University
Technical Colleges, 2016a). Although
recent analysis suggests that they are
underperforming when compared to
a similar sub-set of secondary schools
(Hannay, 2016), their outcomes at this
early stage of their development appear
to be positive (University Technical
Colleges, 2016b). In-depth evaluations
of the student experience at UTCs reveal
that students are highly motivated
by the social experiences and active
learning pedagogies provided by the
schools, and that impressive outcomes
in engineering and other academic
subjects have been achieved (Comino
Foundation, 2016; Malpass and Limmer,
Studio Schools are small, typically with
fewer than 300 students and also
seek to model themselves on a 9–5
workplace experience rather than on
a more typical school timetable. There
are currently just over 30 schools open
(Studio Schools Trust, 2016).
Three UTCs took part in our research,
and although a discussion took place
with both the Studio Schools Trust
and with one studio school, it was not
possible to engage this kind of school in
the research at such an early stage of
their evolution.
There has been a major review of
the National Curriculum in England
2. Wider educational context
Wider educational context
8 Royal Academy of Engineering
(DfE,2013). This change has been
coupled at secondary level, with
the introduction of the English
Baccalaureate (EBacc) (DfE, 2016a).
EBacc is a new school performance
measure indicating how many pupils
get a grade C or above in certain
subjects at Key Stage 4 in any state-
funded school. The original intention
was to advocate a more knowledge-
based approach to the curriculum.
However, the selection of the core
academic subjects comprising the
EBacc – excluding arts subjects
and design and technology (D&T)
– encourages schools to privilege
English, mathematics and science
and so may limit the range of options
on oer to students at age 14. At a
time when many are arguing that
we need to look for tomorrow’s
engineers from the whole curriculum
and not rely on high performance in
mathematics and science (Howes et
al., 2013), EBacc may make attempts to
enhance interest in engineering more
Beyond subject knowledge, business
leaders have also made clear that the
development of key capabilities such
as resilience, creativity and curiosity
as well as an awareness of working
life are important, and that this should
be the basis on which we judge the
success or otherwise of schools
(CBI, 2012). Addressing this priority
becomes ever more critical as the
demand for ‘soft skills’ in the labour
market increases. An education that
focuses on developing soft skills, or
dispositions such as perseverance,
sociability and curiosity, has the
potential for enhancing an individual’s
success in the labour market in the
longer term (Heckman and Kautz, 2012).
New kinds of accountability
Two accountability measures
introduced for secondary schools
from 2016 onwards, Attainment 8 and
Progress 8, may also have unintended
consequences that adversely aect
interest in engineering. Attainment 8
measures the achievement of a pupil
across eight qualications including
mathematics (double weighted) and
English (double weighted), three
further qualications allowable within
EBacc and three further qualications
that can be GCSE qualications or any
other non-GCSE qualications on the
DfE approved list (DfE, 2016b:5).
Progress 8 is a type of value-added
indicator that aims to capture the
progress a pupil makes from the end of
primary school to the end of secondary
school. In it, pupils’ results are
compared to the actual achievements
of other pupils with the same prior
attainment (DfE, 2016b:5).
On the surface, both these changes
make sense, especially Progress 8,
because they oer a means of showing
real progress against an agreed
benchmark. However, the subjects
which count for the value added
calculation are a limited set of GCSEs
and some options favoured by many
potential engineers, for example D&T
and music, are not in the core.
2.2 Current issues
in education for
The challenge of meeting the demand
for engineering skills in the future, let
alone ensuring that young people are
ready for the world of work by the time
they leave secondary education, shows
no sign of diminishing.
The Annual Skills Survey published by
the Confederation of British Industry
(CBI) and Pearson (CBI/Pearson,
2016) provides a useful snapshot of
employers’ perspectives on how well
the education system is preparing
young people for employment.
Employers expect to see a rise in
demand for higher skilled employees
and a decline in demand for those with
lower skills. This predicted demand
is particularly high in engineering,
science and high-tech industries
and the CBI/Pearson report calls for
more eective ways to improve the
supply of STEM-skilled people. Some
suggest that the ‘skills gap’ has more
to do with employers’ reluctance to
oer appropriate compensation than
education provision (for example, van
Rens, 2015), but we disagree.
Writing in Big Ideas: The future of
engineering in schools, Professor John
Perkins CBE FREng says that “growing
awareness of the need for more radical
approaches will be needed if we are to
Learning to be an Engineer 9
achieve the step change in supply that
all agree would be desirable” (Finegold,
2016:2). It is encouraging to see that
not only has advice been produced for
STEM employers on engaging with
education (Royal Society, 2016), but
also that industry links with primary
education are beginning to be taken
seriously. The CBI has acknowledged
that business links with primary schools
are important but underdeveloped, and
that industry can play an important role
in supporting primary schools shape
children’s aspirations and attitudes
(CBI, 2015). Furthermore, research
by the organisation Education and
Employers Taskforce has found that
on-going engagement by young people
in school-mediated employer initiatives
while at secondary school is linked to
their potential higher wage earnings
during adult life. This is attributed to
the development of social networks
and access to trustworthy information
through employer contacts, which
generate realistic career aspirations
among young people (Mann and Percy,
The CBI recommends that businesses
should enable teachers to spend time
with them as part of their continuing
professional development (CPD) (CBI,
2014), a suggestion that is facilitated
though the Insight into Industry
scheme organised by the Institution of
Mechanical Engineers (IMechE, 2016).
It has been suggested that the Primary
Futures programme from the Education
and Employers Taskforce could support
enhancing science, and bring in
‘inspiring speakers from industry into
the classroom, sparking the interest
of young people in dierent careers
and sectors,’ (CBI, 2014:32), although
the support that primary teachers
most sought from industry was the
provision of equipment and facilities
(CBI, 2014:23).
Despite these encouraging initiatives,
the well-documented and broad
array of factors inuencing learners’
progressive loss of interest in studying
STEM subjects beyond primary school
remains a challenge to overcome. The
factors include an increase in passive
rather than active learning methods
following transition from primary to
secondary school, lack of inspirational
teachers qualied in STEM subjects,
perceived diculty of STEM subjects
and an emphasis on achieving high
grades leading to the selection of
what are perceived as ‘easier options’,
negative stereotypes of those
interested in science as ‘geeky’, lack
of suitable adult role models, lack of
relevance and a decontextualised
curriculum, poor careers guidance and
lack of knowledge of the wide range of
career possibilities oered by studying
STEM (A.T. Kearney, 2016; IET,2008;
Morgan et al., 2016). Thereare
Wider educational context
Students taking
Students achie ving
A*-C grade in
2 sciences and
maths at GCSE
Students taking
both maths and
physics A leve l
Students taking
IT and construction
at level 3
Students taking
rst degrees
(UK domiciled)
graduatees going
into professional
Education transition point
Number of students
Figure 3: Key transition points
for young people across
various stages of education
towards engineering
(Morgan et al., 2016:14)
10 Royal Academy of Engineering
also strong personal and societal
inuences, such as an individual’s
levels of self-condence and family
background (Schoon et al., 2007).
These factors combine to inuence
the choices young people make as
they decide which GCSEs to study
and whether to consider entering the
engineering profession, see Figure 3.
The progressive decline in interest
in STEM subjects post-16 puts UK
business growth at serious risk (CBI,
2014). The reluctance of girls in
particular to study physics, despite
their strong performance at GCSE in
this subject, has been the focus of
extensive research by Louise Archer
and her colleagues who suggest that
a critical factor at play in girls’ choices
is their ‘science capital’ (Archer et
al., 2016a). Science capital is all the
scientic knowledge, attitudes and
social associations that young people
have acquired that inuence the extent
to which they view STEM careers as
being ‘for them’ (Archer et al., 2016b).
These researchers also suggest that
school ability groupings or ‘setting’
may be responsible for an uneven
distribution in the growth in numbers
taking ‘Triple Science’, (biology,
chemistry and physics as separate
subjects) at GCSE that adversely aects
students from widening participation
backgrounds (Archer et al., 2016c).
2.3 Opportunities for
EHoM in the National
Curriculum and
the Curriculum for
There are opportunities for EHoM
presented by the revisions to the
National Curriculum and also within the
Curriculum for Excellence, the curriculum
framework for Scotland used by the
Primary Engineer teachers in our study.
In the National Curriculum (DfE,
2013), ways of expressing disciplinary
thinking in computing, science
D&T and mathematics, such as
‘computational thinking’, ‘working
scientically’, ‘design, make, evaluate’
and the use of ‘mathematical
vocabulary’ may all oer a launch
pad for EHoM. Within computing
– the subject that replaced ICT –
the Barefoot Computing project
(Computing at School, 2016) has
published a model of the primary
school ‘computational thinker’ that
is made up of 6 concepts and 5
approaches to working, see Figure 4.
Computational thinking is a way of
thinking about solving problems
eectively and eciently and aligns
well with the EHoM approach. For
example, the decomposition of complex
problems into smaller more manageable
chunks helps pupils better visualise
Figure 4: Computational thinking
(Computing at School/Barefoot
Computing, 2016)
Learning to be an Engineer 11
solutions. Systems thinking reects
the ability to understand how smaller
sections of a problem or system t with,
and interact with, each other and to
identify such interactions, it is helpful
to understand abstraction to help spot
patterns in systems.
Within science there is another
opportunity to incorporate EHoM,
oered by the renaming of science
enquiry to ‘working scientically’ (DfE,
2013). ‘Working scientically’ includes
ve types of science investigations,
which overlap with EHoM, covering:
observing over time, nding patterns
and relationships, identifying and
classifying, researching using secondary
sources, comparative and fair testing.
A strong emphasis is also placed upon
pupils asking their own questions, and
making their own decisions as they
undertake investigations. Furthermore,
the revised science curriculum places
a greater emphasis on learners’
understanding of the uses and
implications of science, which could be
enhanced through the use of real-world
engineering examples.
The D&T curriculum oers the
potential for including an engineering
experience for learners up to the age
of 14, thanks to employers shaping it
to reect their current needs, David
Barlex and Richard Green noted
(Barlex, 2016; Green, 2015). Unlike
core subjects such as mathematics and
English, the revised D&T curriculum
features learning objectives that
are not year-specic, which has the
potential to diminish appropriate
sequencing of objectives.
Therefore, in an attempt to ensure
that D&T learning is appropriately
sequenced to achieve progression, the
Design and Technology Association
(DATA) has produced a Progression
Framework ‘to help teachers plan
activities that build on learners’
previous learning and oer an
appropriate level of challenge’ (DATA,
2016:1). A scan of the framework
reveals numerous occasions when
EHoM could be incorporated, where
often the same language is used.
For example, the EHoM improving is
referred to under Evaluating across
Key Stage 1 and adapting is frequently
mentioned in KS2 and KS3.
Furthermore, through designing and
making tasks in D&T at Key Stage 3,
learners have to make design decisions
that relate strongly to EHoM. Barlex
(2007) has developed the following
graphic, see Figure 5, which provides a
The decision-making that learners
need to undertake involves ve key
areas of interdependent design
decision: conceptual (overall purpose
Figure 5: Pupil design decisions in a
designing and making assignment
Wider educational context
12 Royal Academy of Engineering
of the design), technical (how the
design will work), aesthetic (what the
design will look like), constructional
(how the design will be put together)
and marketing (who the design
is for and how it will be sold). The
interdependence of these areas is an
important feature of design decisions
and it is the juggling of these various
decisions to arrive at a coherent
design proposal and creation of a
working prototype that provides the
act of designing and making with such
intellectual rigour and educational
worth and an essential part of
technology education.
As for other subjects, while Howes
and colleagues (2013) suggest that
engineering can provide a highly
authentic context for learning
mathematics and science, they also
suggest that schools may be able to
ensure that young people with design
interests retain links with STEM, if art
is integrated, to create STEAM. This
new acronym deliberately puts the
arts into our thinking about STEM and
organisations have been created to
demonstrate the usefulness of this
approach, such as the Rhode Island
School of Design (STEM to STEAM,
2016). STEAM may oer students who
have leaked from the STEM pipeline
an opportunity to re-join it, having
travelled ‘by a dierent route, to a later
rendezvous’ (Howes et al., 2013:10).
The New Model in Technology and
Engineering (NMITE) University under
development in Hereford is an excellent
example of the bold steps needed
to help young people realise this
possibility (NMITE University, 2017).
Intended to engage children from
the age of three to 18, Scotland’s
Curriculum for Excellence (Education
Scotland, n.d.) is designed to provide
young people with the knowledge,
skills and attributesthey need
for learning, life and work in the
21st century. Its broad curriculum
expectations would seem to lend
itself to the central principles behind
developing EHoM more obviously
than its English equivalent. In the
mathematics curriculum for example,
engineering is mentioned 21 times
in the Curriculum for Excellence,
whereas it is only mentioned twice in
the National Curriculum. Emphasis is
placed on interdisciplinary learning and
open ended tasks, with engineering
references featured in mathematics,
technologies, science and computer
science subjects. The Curriculum
for Excellence also makes strong
connections between education,
training and work.
Throughout our report teachers often
refer to the stages of the curriculum
within which they undertook their
interventions, so for ease of reference
we list the stages and their associated
learner ages in Appendix 1.
2.4 Integrated STEM
Looking beyond opportunities for
embedding EHoM within discrete
curriculum subjects, the creation
of integrated STEM programmes
(focusing on science, technology,
engineering and mathematics)
raises additional possibilities for
EHoM. There is a growing focus on
how the interrelationships between
these disciplines can be advanced
through integrated STEM education
programmes, to reect their
interconnected use in the real world
(Johnson et al., 2015; Kelly and Knowles,
2016). Integrated STEM programmes
at primary level can be particularly
important for developing self-belief as
a STEM learner although it is claimed
that their implementation in schools
is under-researched (Rosicka, 2016).
Within secondary schools, an evaluation
of the integrated STEM pathnder
programme (2008–2009) found that
positive outcomes for learners included:
increased awareness of the links
between STEM subjects, enhanced
problem solving, independent learning
and investigation skills, and increased
positive attitudes towards STEM
careers (Springate et al., 2009).
Although there are some examples
of integrated STEM in the UK, such as
iSTEM+ (STEM Learning, 2017), there
is still uncertainty about how it might
best be organised and evaluated. Some
argue that it is not clear how teachers
can foster these connections across
STEM subjects in order to make them
more transparent and meaningful to
learners, so as to improve learning
outcomes (English, 2016a:3-4/8),
Learning to be an Engineer 13
and while an integrative approach to
STEM education can lead to a range of
positive outcomes for learners, it has
been suggested that it is very dicult
to nd evidence of improvement of
higher order outcomes through STEM
integration (Howes et al., 2013).
Although there is still much to be learnt
about the most eective methods
for integrating STEM there is some
guidance from existing programmes.
Teachers have to be comfortable
working across traditional subject and
departmental boundaries and ensure
that learners also are comfortable
working with open ended problems.
The sequencing of the challenge has
to match the learners’ abilities, with
appropriate scaolding to develop
pre-requisite skills. The challenges
must appeal to learners’ interests and
appropriate assessment approaches
have to be found (Denson and Lammy,
2014). Furthermore, the scaolding
must be balanced to ensure that
learners understand core concepts, but
are also allowed to apply their learning
as they choose to solve the problem
(English, 2016a:7/8; English and King,
2015). These aspects of scaolding
in particular are also emphasised by
Kapur, who concludes that ‘productive
failure’ has an important role in
supporting conceptual learning (Kapur,
2016). In engineering education
language, Al-Atabi (2014) calls this
‘failing smart’. This is an attitude that
accepts failure as an essential element
of innovation and is reinforced through
plenty of opportunities to practice and
experience ‘fast/cheap failure’ in the
early stages of the project.
Nevertheless, even in the USA, where
the integrative design of engineering
challenges is more common, teachers
still struggle with assessment. It is
suggested that a compelling case can
be made for students taking more
responsibility for self-assessment, but
‘it does not account for the time and
skills needed for students to be able
develop their own rubrics and other
assessment tools’ (Denson and Lammy,
2014:10) nor does it take into account
high stakes assessment systems such
as in the UK. Assessment needs to be
revisited to reinvigorate STEM (Howes
et al., 2013:16).
2.5 Summary
The overall educational context
within which we introduced EHoM is
therefore one of opportunities and
challenges. The net eect of changes
to school and college status, new
curriculum arrangements and dierent
approaches to accountability has
meant that involvement in yet another
initiative, in this case, to embrace
EHoM, is not for the faint-hearted!
Nevertheless, despite the distraction
of all these other challenges, we
still found schools willing to pilot
interventions in their classrooms
designed to cultivate EHoM.
Wider educational context
14 Royal Academy of Engineering
Learning to be an Engineer 15
3. Our approach to the research
In moving from conceptual research to a
series of interventions, we have adopted
an approach widely used in community
development and healthcare (Davido
et al., 2015; Weiss, 1997). This requires
those undertaking and seeking to
evaluate new approaches to articulate
their beliefs as to how and why any
approach works. Therefore, in this
section we clarify our ‘theory of change’
(TofC) and briey explain the research
methods inuencing our evaluation of
the teachers’ interventions.
3.1 A Theory of Change
Our Theory of Change (TofC) is
articulated in Table 1 below. In essence,
we are suggesting that to overcome the
current lack of engineers we need to do
three things in schools:
n Move away from a focus on
disciplinary knowledge (subjects
such as maths and science) towards
a better understanding of the ways
engineers think and act (EHoM
such as systems-thinking, problem-
nding and visualising).
n Describe the teaching and learning
methods most suited to cultivating
our desired habits of mind.
n Build teacher capability through
professional development.
In this study we have focused on:
understanding more about the
challenges of reframing engineering
in a subject-dominated world, the
principles and practices involved in
cultivating EHoM, the nature of the
professional learning required, the
kinds of support needed by teachers
and school leaders and the conditions
which need to be in place to ensure
that new approaches to engineering
education in schools are embedded.
Our over-arching hypothesis is that
while we need to continue to value
disciplinary knowledge and practical
Our approach to the research
Table 1: Learning to be an engineer –
a four step theory of change
If we
n reframe engineering education to include desirable engineering
habits of mind (EHoM) in addition to subject knowledge, and
n clearly articulate the principles and practices through which these
EHoM can be cultivated in schools, and
n oer teachers targeted support for changing practices along
with opportunities to co-design enquiries within the context of a
reective professional learning community
n we can better understand what school leaders and teachers
need to do to change their practices to embed more eective
engineering education
So that
n we can share this understanding widely, and
n more eectively support the process of successful implementation
of engineering education in schools
So that
n more schools embrace engineering, and
n more school students have high-quality experiences of
engineering education, and
n more students choose to study engineering beyond school and,
potentially, choose careers in engineering.
16 Royal Academy of Engineering
skills, we also need to think more about
the dispositions we want our engineers
to acquire. To do this, we contend, we
need to think more carefully about
dispositional teaching and its associated
learning methods (Costa and Kallick,
2014). Dispositional teaching specically
focuses on pedagogies through which
certain valued dispositions can be
cultivated in learners using the formal
and co-curriculum.
To this end our more detailed research
questions were:
n Which dispositional learning and
teaching methods do teachers nd
most useful for the cultivation of
n What impact does engaging with
EHoM have on learners?
n Does professional learning within
a professional learning community
(PLC) help teachers change their
n What school conditions are most
favourable for cultivating EHoM?
n How can engineers be involved in
supporting teachers to cultivate
3.2 Research design and
The methodology for this small-scale
intervention study was designed in
line with our TofC model. We have
previously identied the six EHoM and
articulated possible approaches to
their cultivation (Lucas and Hanson,
2016a; Lucas and Hanson 2016b). This
report builds on this earlier work and
presents the outcomes of a small-scale
intervention study aimed at exploring
the process of implementing EHoM in
primary and secondary schools, and to a
lesser extent with 16 to 19 year olds in
further education colleges.
The schools and college participated
on a voluntary basis and were recruited
largely through convenience sampling
on a ‘rst come-rst served’ basis in
response to advertising by the project
teams among their existing partner
base of schools. The specic methods
of selection and the schools involved
are described in the information on
each project in Section 4.
The teachers engaged in a small test
of change to explore how they might
expand engineering in the curriculum
and cultivate EHoM in their learners.
The majority engaged with this as a
CPD learning project for which they
adopted a participatory action research
approach (Reason and Bradbury, 2008).
They formulated a simple research
question based on the format ‘If I do
X, will Y happen?’ where the X was the
aspect of their teaching they planned
to change and the Y was the EHoM,
or sub-EHoM they aimed to cultivate.
Although we dened the format of the
question, we did not dene specically
how these interventions should be
Teachers evaluated the impact of their
interventions on their learners, on
themselves and on their school using a
number of methods, including learner
self-report questionnaires administered
before and after the intervention,
teacher observations of learner activity,
interviews with learners, and teachers’
professional assessment of learner
outcomes. They analysed the data they
gathered and compiled presentations
and reports explaining in what ways
and with what eect their intervention
inuenced their learners’ outcomes and
their own practice in cultivating EHoM.
This reection enabled them to explore
their own ‘taken-for-granted’ practices
and provided context-specic evidence
about the process of cultivating EHoM.
The teachers’ attendance at learning
events organised by each of the
three project teams and at joint
dissemination events hosted by the
Academy was a core component of
the study and contributed to a spirit
of collaborative enquiry. By sharing
their reections with others, teachers’
knowledge about ‘what worked’ in
their context could inform the wider
professional community and aord
credibility to the personal knowledge
being created through the action
research (Colucci-Gray et al., 2013). This
sharing of experience within a learning
community is important in an area like
EHoM cultivation, where teachers are
attempting to change their classroom
practice (Wiliam, 2007). David Barlex
(2016) has suggested that, although
teachers involved in implementing
engineering education have a
Learning to be an Engineer 17
multitude of support organisations
prepared to come into the classroom
to talk to children or provide resources
about engineering, there are fewer
professional organisations through
which they can share experiences of
providing engineering education.
These two features, teacher enquiry
into practice and engagement in a
professional learning community,
are now acknowledged as essential
elements of eective teacher
professional development (Cordingley
et al., 2015; Stoll et al., 2012; Timperley
et al., 2014). We know that the most
signicant impact on learner outcomes
is achieved when teachers generate
knowledge by investigating their own
practice at the same time as testing out
theory produced by others (Cochran-
Smith and Lytle, 2001).
3.3 Evaluation methods
We used a number of qualitative
methods to explore the teachers’
intervention experiences to ensure as
much triangulation of data sources and
types as possible.
We adopted an appreciative inquiry
approach (AI) to underpin our
philosophical approach to the whole
study. AI is a research approach that
is ‘particularly useful for exploring
the potential for building on
achievement’(Reed, 2007:180). It
focuses on and seeks to understand
what is working particularly well when
the process or activity being evaluated
is successfully deployed. At a time
when teachers were managing many
competing challenges, AI helped to
ensure that a positive atmosphere was
maintained when discussing changes
associated with the research.
In addition to collating and analysing
the teachers’ evaluations of their
action research interventions we also
undertook semi-structured interviews
with them and gathered qualitative
feedback via a questionnaire. Six
schools compiled short reports
about their experiences which were
published in a special issue of the
journal Primary Science (Winter
2016/17) called Tinkering for
Learning’. Although we did not gather
data directly from learners, most
of the teachers’ reports did include
evaluation comments gathered from
their students.
3.4 Data analysis and
We used a ‘realist synthesis’ approach to
seek answers to our research questions
about the cultivation of EHoM and
their impact on learners, teachers and
engineers. Realist synthesis is:
“…an approach to reviewing
research evidence on complex social
interventions, which provides an
explanatory analysis of how and why
they work (or don’t work) in particular
contexts or settings”
et al
., 2004:iv)
We wanted to understand more about
the pedagogic processes underpinning
the successful cultivation of EHoM in
schools and to learn more about the
impact that these interventions had
on learners, teachers and engineers.
However, it was important to embed
this understanding within the specic
contexts of the sites in which the
interventions took place. Although
we had generated theory about the
most appropriate ways of cultivating
EHoM, we had to acknowledge that
intervention was inevitably going to be
tailored by teachers to suit their own
beliefs, abilities and resources and then
be enacted within the unique social
system of their school (Rycroft-Malone
et al., 2012). Analysis of the data using
techniques associated with realist
synthesis oered the opportunity of
establishing not simply ‘what works’
but also ‘for whom’ and ‘under what
circumstances’. This perspective, with
its explanatory rather than judgmental
focus, also aligned with our AI
We used thematic analysis (Braun and
Clarke, 2006) to code the data and
produced a synthesis of the ways in
which teachers had cultivated EHoM.
We looked for patterns, identifying
issues which were frequently repeated
in the data but not specic to any one
sector, such as ‘learning from failure’
or factors associated with ‘growth
mindset’. These themes were then
clustered under three major areas for
reporting: i) outcomes for learners
and teachers ii) the role of engineers
Our approach to the research
18 Royal Academy of Engineering
in supporting teachers to cultivate
EHoM and iii) enablers and barriers for
cultivating EHoM in schools. Finally,
conclusions and recommendations
were derived from our interpretation
of these outcomes emerging from the
three projects.
Extended descriptive case studies for 12
schools were compiled that described
why the school became involved,
explained how teachers engaged with
the processes of cultivating EHoM and
summarised the principal outcomes for
learners and teachers in that specic
context. Shortened versions of the case
studies have been used in this report
to illustrate our ndings and the full
versions are available on the project
website hosted by the Academy. We have
also used short excerpts from interview
transcripts and teachers’ reports to
illustrate our ndings in the report.
3.5 Summary
This was a small-scale qualitative
study designed to begin the process
of theory validation and deepen
understanding about the mechanisms
of embedding habit change with
regard to teaching and learning EHoM.
Given the short length of time during
which most teachers’ interventions
were carried out, and the variety
of locations, there are inevitably
limitations on the extent to which
we can generalise from our ndings.
However, our use of realist synthesis
allows us to oer an explanatory
analysis of the degree to which the
dierent interventions did or did not
work and make some general remarks
about these. Further details about our
research approach, including ethical
considerations, can be found on the
project website.
Learning to be an Engineer 19
4.1 Overview
The three partners each developed
a distinctive approach to using the
EHoM framework but all looked at
pedagogies for EHoM, explored
curriculum development and
supported teachers through a
professional learning community. All
the partners encouraged teachers to
use participatory action research to
structure and evaluate small tests of
change in classrooms.
CRL undertook a project, Thinking Like
an Engineer (TLaE), embedding EHoM
into the curriculum in a small number of
schools and a college in England, mainly
in Berkshire, Hampshire and West
Sussex from 2014 to 2016.
SEERIH co-ordinated the Tinker
Tailor Robot Pi (TTRP) project and
investigated the development of an
ethos of tinkering within computing,
D&T and the science curriculum to
promote engineering and EHoM during
Primary Engineer asked CRL to support
the delivery of a course aimed at
primary teachers in Scotland that has
now been accredited by the University
of Strathclyde as a Postgraduate
Each project organised its own
workshops and CPD activities in the
three dierent regions of England and
Scotland, as outlined below. A total
of 33 schools (22 primary schools,
11secondary schools) and one FE
college participated in our programme
to cultivate EHoM, involving 84
teachers. A list of participating
schools and teachers can be found in
Appendix2. Teachers and supporters
from all three projects met at the
Academy to celebrate achievements
and share their ndings in July 2015
and June 2016.
4.2 Thinking Like an
Engineer (TLaE)
CRL began recruiting schools and
colleges to participate in its two-year
project Thinking like an Engineer in the
autumn of 2014. The project included
a blend of training, school support,
curriculum development and action
research within membership of the
Expansive Education Network (eedNET)
professional learning community. The
aims of TLaE were to:
n Develop teachers’ understanding of
engineering habits of mind.
n Support teachers in using signature
pedagogies to develop EHoM and
in creating schemes of work that
included EHoM across science,
mathematics, computing, D&T and
n Encourage teachers to draw
on the expertise of practising
engineers, for example, STEMNET
ambassadors, to ensure that
the learning reects the needs
of employers and benets from
the passionate commitment of
Participation by schools and colleges
was invited through a range of channels
including the members of eedNET and
a yer circulated to Hampshire schools
by the Winchester Science Centre. We
sought those who would be willing to
engage in a continuing professional
development (CPD) activity in which
their teachers undertook small scale,
classroom based teacher inquiries,
based on an action research approach.
During year one (January–July
2015) veschools (one primary,
four secondary) and one FE college
participated. Teachers were supported
by CRL to introduce EHoM in
conjunction with subject content and
evaluate the outcomes. CRL provided
three CPD workshops that covered
an introduction to EHoM and action
research, an introduction to EHoM
resources and the Teachers’ Toolkit
for evaluation, and a progress check
opportunity. The teachers each wrote
a short report and presented their
ndings to their colleagues at the rst
project dissemination conference in July
2015, which with their permission were
shared with other participants on the
eedNET website.
In year two (September 2015–July
2016) all participants but one chose
to continue and ve additional
4. The study
The study
20 Royal Academy of Engineering
schools were recruited. The teachers
continued to implement schemes of
work or develop classroom resources
to cultivate EHoM. In many cases they
expanded their activities and were
joined by additional teachers from
within their school. In place of the
centrally hosted CPD workshops, the
CRL researcher visited the schools and
undertook interviews with teachers.
Together with the teachers’ action
research reports and presentations,
the interviews contributed to the data
for ndings and case studies in this
report. At the second dissemination
event at the Academy, draft ndings
were shared with participants and
contributing experts.
4.3 Tinker Tailor Robot Pi
Tinker Tailor Robot Pi started in
September 2014 as a teacher and
curriculum development project
designed and delivered by SEERIH.
Involving serving primary and
secondary teachers, university
academic engineers, business partners
and pupils from Key Stage 1, 2 and
3, the focus was to explore how a
pedagogical approach to primary
engineering could be established within
the mainstream curriculum. There was
strong interest in fostering teacher
dialogue and condence in the teaching
and learning of engineering education
by exploiting the opportunities
provided within the computing, D&T
and science curriculum.
During year one (September 2014–
July 2015) eight schools participated,
six primary and two secondary (16
teachers). In year two (September
2015-July 2016), ve schools chose to
continue and seven additional schools
were recruited, six primary and one
secondary (31 teachers). Both the
Director of SEERIH and the Director
of CRL are part of a broader network
interested in engineering education
coordinated by the Comino Foundation
and saw the benets of collaborating
on the second year of the TLaE project
to promote EHoM.
The aims of TTRP were to:
n Encourage the sharing of
professional practice and
knowledge between teachers and
n Explore how engineers ‘work’ by
deconstructing how engineers
practice their profession.
n Better understand how learning
related to engineering is taught in
primary schools.
n Identify where opportunities for
a stronger ethos of engineering
could be incorporated in primary
schools and the curriculum through
science, D&T and computing.
n Collaboratively develop, deliver and
reect on teaching and learning
opportunities for pupils that work
towards identifying a signature
pedagogy for engineering in
primary schools.
Two complementary questions were
posed by TTRP:
n How do we embrace engineering
education and an ethos of tinkering
using computing, D&T and the
science curriculum?
n How can engineering have
relevance and resonance within
the primary and secondary school
Relatively early in the project, the
teacher-academic team became
interested in how the concept of
tinkering supported the project’s
interests. It was soon noted that
tinkering could increase the
engagement and understanding
of teachers and children about
engineering in classroom and
staroom. Further discussion about
the concept of tinkering is oered in
Section 5.
TTRP supported schools with a two-
day ‘immersion event’ at the start of
each academic year in which teachers
and academics were able to discuss
and design an approach to best suit
their context, utilising their personal
expertise, as well as meeting project
aims, departmental priorities and pupils’
needs. Support and guidance were
oered to teachers using unfamiliar
technologies in the computing
curriculum, such as Bee-Bots, Crumbles
(Redfern Electronics, 2016), Scratch
Learning to be an Engineer 21
(Lifelong Kindergarten Group) and
Python, as well as ideas for enriching
D&T and ‘making’ in general. Teachers
met periodically through the year as
a whole group and with the project
team. They also had an opportunity
to present their work at a national
conferences (the Association for
Science Education National Conference)
and with the engineering education
community at the Academy.
4.4 Primary Engineer in
Primary Engineer is a not for prot
organisation that brings together early
years, primary and secondary teachers
to share experiences and pedagogical
approaches to incorporating
engineering in the curriculum. It
engages primary and secondary
pupils with engineering through
projects mapped to the curriculum,
where the context has been provided
by engineers. Primary Engineer is
supported by the IMechE.
In 2015 work began to develop one of
Primary Engineer’s programmes into a
GTC Scotland Professional Recognition
Programme in Engineering STEM
Learning. The academic level (SCQF
Level 11) and assessment strategy of the
programme were developed by Primary
Engineer in collaboration with the
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow. The
course development is funded by Skills
Development Scotland for three years.
The aims of the programme are:
n To increase teachers’
understanding of the STEM
‘landscape’ through critical
engagement with research.
n To develop an understanding
of their role within the STEM
n To develop critical reection and
evaluation of their current practice.
n To develop a critical evaluation
of the impact of project based
The Study
22 Royal Academy of Engineering
n To increase their understanding of
what engineering is.
n To establish stronger links with
local engineering industry to
enhance STEM learning.
n To develop pedagogical STEM
strategies through engagement
with EHOM.
CRL delivered three workshops for
the teachers, which covered an
introduction to EHoM, developing
action research questions, the process
of action research, and a progress
check opportunity. Teachers completed
four assessments which took them
on a journey from researching the
engineering education landscape
and EHoM, to implementing an EHoM
intervention in their classroom and
writing up the results. Nine teachers
from eight primary schools in Glasgow
and East Ayrshire were involved in
The teachers agreed their assignments
could be made available to CRL to
inform the research. The outcomes
from their second assignment were
of signicant value in extending the
original research undertaken by CRL
with practising engineers to identify
EHoM. For this assignment, the
Primary Engineer teachers interviewed
engineers from a variety of areas and
organisations to investigate what
inspired them to embark on their
careers and their habits of mind.
In total, the teachers interviewed 63
engineers and presented their ndings
to their peers, Primary Engineer sta
and education and industry experts,
including Iain MacLeod, professor of
Structural Engineering and former
president of IESIS, Dr Andrew McLaren,
vice dean of engineering at the
University of Strathclyde and Dr Lynne
O’Hare of the Advanced Forming
Research Centre. Two of the most
striking ndings were that there was
overwhelming support for the validity
of the six EHoM as being essential
ways of thinking for all engineers and
the belief that schools are not doing
enough to develop these dispositions.
A detailed synthesis of the teachers’
ndings from these highly illuminating
interviews is available on the project
website. The teachers’ fourth
assignment, containing their written
accounts of their action research,
contributed to our understanding of
how teachers cultivated EHoM in the
Figure 6 below shows the key
features of the three interventions
Theory of
3 project
learning with
to be an
support, small
tests of
support, small
tests of
support, small
tests of
interviews, case
case studies
Action plans
reports, case
Evaluation and
validation of
case studies,
expert review
of report
Figure 6: Overview of the
three project interventions
Learning to be an Engineer 23
Developing habits is hard. Changing
ingrained habits is harder still. From
the outset of our work with schools,
we were clear that while the TofC
underpinning this research assumes
that there are a set of desirable EHoM
and that there is a growing body of
knowledge as to how they can be
cultivated, the real challenges lie in
changing teacher habits.
In order to deliberately cultivate or
change habits it is important to be clear
about what they are and how they are
formed. In this section we explore some
common characteristics of habits and
the processes of habit formation in
order to enhance understanding of how
learning and teaching environments
may be arranged to support the
development of learning behaviours so
they become habitual.
While most habits are essentially
neutral, depending on when and where
they are deployed by an individual, they
may help or hinder eective learning
behaviours. For example, perseverance
and relating to others in a friendly
manner normally help individuals to
progress in the classroom and the
work-place, whereas being rude and
unreliable do not (Wood and Runger,
Habits have three core dening
features: they are automatic
responses, they are generated in
response to a ‘trigger’ or cue, such
as an event, action or person and
they are undertaken in pursuit of a
goal that brings a reward (Lally and
Gardner, 2013; Wood and Runger,
2016). However, habit formation is a
slow, incremental process and habitual
behaviour is very resistant to change
(Lally et al., 2010). There are three key
factors that are thought to encourage
the development of habits: constant
repetition of the habitual action, a
stable context in which to perform it,
and the provision of an appropriate
reward for completing the action
(Lallyand Gardner 2013; Wood and
Runger, 2016).
The factors necessary for habit
formation provide us with four
pedagogic principles to guide our
cultivation of eective learning habits:
n Teachers and learners need to
fully understand the habit and
recognise it when it is being used
n Teachers need to create the climate
for the habit to ourish, including
rewarding it.
n Teachers need to choose teaching
methods that facilitate the practice
and transfer of the habit.
n Teachers need to build learner
engagement and commitment to
the habit.
These four principles for cultivating
eective habits informed the
professional learning oered to
teachers within the project and the
targeted support we oered teachers
in co-designing their interventions.
5.1 Four principles
for cultivating
engineering habits of
Principle 1: Developing
understanding of the habit
The automaticity of habits often
makes it dicult for students to
see clearly what skills are involved,
how to break the habit down into its
component parts, or even to name it
when they use it or notice it in others.
It is important to dene and explain
the habit so that understanding is
developed on a practical as well as a
theoretical level (Huntly and Donovan,
2010). Teachers frequently begin this
process by talking with their students
about their own personal experiences
of using the skill, or provide examples
of well-known gures who have
exhibited it.
Some teachers used self-report
questionnaires to help students
gauge their own skill levels prior to
discussing with them how they might
enhance the skill. We developed an
engineering habits of mind self-report
survey (Appendix 3) as a means
of building understanding and for
tracking the development of EHoM in
5. Cultivating engineering habits of mind
Cultivating engineering habits of mind
24 Royal Academy of Engineering <