A cultural-historical critique of how engineering knowledge is constructed through research in play-based settings: what counts as evidence and what is invisible?

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    It is reported that engineering for play-based settings is a new body of knowledge under debate and contradictory. Many studies show how play-based settings are full of engineering possibilities for young children, whilst others have identified missed engineering teaching possibilities. In order to better understand the research, this paper answers the questions, ‘How is engineering knowledge being constructed through research into play-based settings?’, and ‘What do the results show for practice and future engineering research for preschool settings?’ To answer these questions, a critique of those studies which focused on engineering education in play-based settings was undertaken. By examining existing studies in relation to the study designs and the results, this paper reports on how categories of engineering knowledge were established and how knowledge was constructed for engineering education for play-based settings. Using cultural-historical theory, the results show that studies of play-based setting have primarily been guided by practices from only some engineering professions, knowledge construction is based on both pre-defined and emergent categories, and research has tended to focus mostly on constructing (e.g. blocks). Gendered engineering knowledge was also identified, suggesting only partial understandings of engineering education evident. The critique not only identified knowledge construction that positively contributes to scholarship but also found gaps in what was being studied, thereby contributing to research by cautioning against full acceptance of the existing analytical concepts in the literature and suggesting that the building of a broader set of analytical categories for future research is needed.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1355-1373
    Number of pages19
    JournalResearch in Science Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


    • Early childhood
    • Engineering education
    • Gender
    • Preschool
    • Play
    • Cultural-historical

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