Research in Science Education

, Volume 37, Issue 3, pp 261–277 | Cite as

Problem Solving in a Middle School Robotics Design Classroom

  • Stephen J. Norton
  • Campbell J. McRobbie
  • Ian S. Ginns


Little research has been conducted on how students work when they are required to plan, build and evaluate artefacts in technology rich learning environments such as those supported by tools including flow charts, Labview programming and Lego construction. In this study, activity theory was used as an analytic tool to examine the social construction of meaning. There was a focus on the effect of teachers’ goals and the rules they enacted upon student use of the flow chart planning tool, and the tools of the programming language Labview and Lego construction. It was found that the articulation of a teacher’s goals via rules and divisions of labour helped to form distinct communities of learning and influenced the development of different problem solving strategies. The use of the planning tool flow charting was associated with continuity of approach, integration of problem solutions including appreciation of the nexus between construction and programming, and greater educational transformation. Students who flow charted defined problems in a more holistic way and demonstrated more methodical, insightful and integrated approaches to their use of tools. The findings have implications for teaching in design dominated learning environments.

Key words

design technology activity theory teacher beliefs robot design student learning 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen J. Norton
    • 1
  • Campbell J. McRobbie
    • 2
  • Ian S. Ginns
    • 2
  1. 1.Griffith University, Mount Gravatt CampusMount GravattAustralia
  2. 2.Queensland University of TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

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