Learning Environments Research

, Volume 21, Issue 2, pp 285–300 | Cite as

Evaluation of engineering and technology activities in primary schools in terms of learning environment, attitudes and understanding

  • Rekha B. Koul
  • Barry J. Fraser
  • Nicoleta Maynard
  • Moses Tade
Original Paper


Because the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education continues to be recognised around the world, we developed and validated an instrument to assess the learning environment and student attitudes in STEM classrooms, with a specific focus on engineering and technology (E&T) activities in primary schools. When a four-scale instrument assessing classroom cooperation and involvement and student enjoyment and career interest was administered to 1095 grade 4–7 students in 36 classes in 10 schools, data analyses supported its factorial validity and reliability. When the new questionnaire and understanding scales were used to evaluate E&T activities, statistically-significant pretest–posttest changes in career interest and understanding (with large effect sizes ranging from 0.70 to 0.81 standard deviations) supported the efficacy of the instructional activities.


Attitudes Learning environment Primary education STEM education 


  1. ACARA (Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority). (2011). The Australian Curriculum.
  2. ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research). (2016a, December 6). Latest PISA results: Australia at the cross-road. [Media release]. Retrieved from:
  3. ACER (Australian Council for Educational Research). (2016b). TIMSS 2015: A first look at Australia’s results. Retrieved from:
  4. Afari, E., Aldridge, J. M., Fraser, B. J., & Khine, M. S. (2013). Students’ perceptions of the learning environment and attitudes in game-based mathematics classrooms. Learning Environments Research, 16, 131–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Aldridge, J. M., & Fraser, B. J. (2008). Outcomes-focused learning environments. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.Google Scholar
  6. Aldridge, J. M., Fraser, B. J., & Huang, I. (1999). Investigating classroom environments in Taiwan and Australia with multiple research methods. Journal of Educational Research, 93, 48–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aldridge, J. M., Fraser, B. J., & Sebela, M. P. (2004). Using teacher action research to promote constructivist learning environments in South Africa. South African Journal of Education, 24(4), 245–253.Google Scholar
  8. Australian National Engineering Taskforce. (2010). Scoping our future: Addressing Australia’s engineering skills shortage.
  9. Bundy, A. (1999). 21st century literacy…Still no single measure. Incite, 20(5), 8. Retrieved from:
  10. Burden, R. L., & Fraser, B. J. (1993). Use of classroom environment assessments in school psychology: A British perspective. Psychology in the Schools, 30(3), 232–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Bybee, R. W. (2013). The case for STEM education: Challenges and opportunities. Arlington, VA: National Science Teachers Association.Google Scholar
  12. Byrne, D. B., Hattie, J. A., & Fraser, B. J. (1986). Student perceptions of preferred classroom learning environment. The Journal of Educational Research, 80(1), 10–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cohen, J. (1992). A power primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112, 155–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Cohn, S. T., & Fraser, B. J. (2016). Effectiveness of student response systems in terms of learning environment, attitudes and achievement. Learning Environments Research, 19, 153–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Cronbach, L. J. (1951). Coefficient alpha and the internal structure of tests. Psychometrika, 16, 297–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Early Childhood STEM Working Group. (2017). Early STEM matters: Providing high-quality experiences for all young learners. Retrieved from:
  17. Fraser, B. J. (1981a). Using environmental assessments to make better classrooms. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 13(2), 131–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fraser, B. J. (1981b). Test of science-related attitude (TOSRA). Melbourne: Australian Council for Educational Research.Google Scholar
  19. Fraser, B. J. (2012). Classroom learning environments: Retrospect, context and prospect. In B. J. Fraser, K. G. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of science education (pp. 1191–1234). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Fraser, B. J. (2014). Classroom learning environments: Historical and contemporary perspectives. In N. G. Lederman & S. K. Abell (Eds.), Handbook of research on science education (II ed., pp. 104–119). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  21. Fraser, B. J., Aldridge, J. M., & Adolphe, F. S. G. (2010). A cross-national study of secondary science classroom environments in Australia and Indonesia. Research in Science Education, 40, 551–571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fraser, B. J., & Butts, W. L. (1982). Relationship between perceived levels of classroom individualization and science-related attitudes. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 19(2), 143–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Fraser, B. J., & Fisher, D. L. (1983). Development and validation of short forms of some instruments measuring student perceptions of actual and preferred classroom learning environment. Science Education, 67(1), 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fraser, B. J., Giddings, G. J., & McRobbie, C. J. (1995). Evolution and validation of a personal form of an instrument for assessing science laboratory classroom environments. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 32, 399–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Fraser, B. J., & Tobin, K. G. (Eds.). (1987). Exemplary practice in science and mathematics education. Perth: Key Centre for Teaching and Research in School Science and Mathematics, Curtin University.Google Scholar
  26. Furtak, E. M., Seidel, T., Iverson, H., & Briggs, D. C. (2012). Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of inquiry-based science teaching: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 300–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gee, J. P. (2012). Social linguistics and literacies: Ideology in discourses (4th ed.). Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  28. Goh, S. C., & Fraser, B. J. (2000). Teacher interpersonal behaviour and elementary students’ outcomes. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 14(2), 216–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Goodrum, D., & Rennie, L. J. (2007). Australian school science education national action plan 20082012. Retrieved from
  30. Goss, P., Sonnemann, J., Chisholm, C., & Nelson, L. (2016). Widening gaps: What NAPLAN tells us about student progress (Grattan Institute Report No. 2016-3). Retrieved from:
  31. Harris, K. L., & (for the Australian Council of Deans of Science). (2012). A background in science: What science means for Australian society. Melbourne: Centre for the Study of Higher Education.Google Scholar
  32. Kennedy, T. J., & Odell, M. R. I. (2014). Engaging students in S.T.E.M. education. Science Education International, 25(3), 246–258. Retrieved from:
  33. Khine, M. S. (Ed.). (2015). Attitude measurements in science education: Classic and contemporary approaches. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.Google Scholar
  34. Kind, P. M., Jones, K., & Barmby, P. (2007). Developing attitudes towards science measures. International Journal of Science Education, 29, 871–893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Koul, R., Fraser, B. J., Maynard, N., Tade, M., & Henderson, D. (2016). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teaching to primary-school students. In R. V. Nata (Ed.), Progress in education (pp. 97–119). New York: Nova Science Publishers.Google Scholar
  36. Lachapelle, C. P., & Cunningham, C. M. (2007, March). Engineering is elementary: Children’s changing understanding of science and engineering. Paper presented at the 114th American Society for engineering education annual conference and exposition, Honolulu, HI.Google Scholar
  37. Laugksch, R. C. (2000). Scientific literacy: A conceptual overview. Science Education, 84(1), 71–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Lightburn, M. E., & Fraser, B. J. (2007). Classroom environment and student outcomes among students using anthropometry activities in high-school science. Research in Science and Technological Education, 25, 153–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Liu, L., & Fraser, B. J. (2013). Development and validation of an English classroom learning environment inventory and its application in China. In M. S. Khine (Ed.), Application of structural equation modeling in educational research (pp. 75–89). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Masny, D., & Cole, D. (2007). Applying multiple literacies in Australian and Canadian contexts. In A. Simpson (Ed.), Future directions in literacy: International conversations conference proceedings (pp. 190–211). Sydney: Sydney University Press.Google Scholar
  41. Milliken, D., & Adams, J. (2010). Recommendations for science, technology, engineering and mathematics education (Report by STEM Work Group). Retrieved from:
  42. Murcia, K. (2009). Science in the news: An evaluation of students’ scientific literacy. Teaching Science, 55(3). Retrieved from:
  43. Naisbitt, J., & Aburdene, P. (1990). Megatrends 2000. London: Sidwick & Jackson.Google Scholar
  44. Norton, B. (2007). Critical literacy and international development. In L. Mario & T. M. de Souza (Eds.), Critical literacy: Theories and practices (Vol. 1, pp. 6–15). Nottingham: Centre for the Study of Social and Global Justice, University of Nottingham.Google Scholar
  45. Office of Chief Scientist. (2016). Australia’s STEM workforce. Canberra: Australian Government.Google Scholar
  46. Office of the Chief Scientist. (November 2014). Benchmarking Australian science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
  47. Ogbuehi, P. I., & Fraser, B. J. (2007). Learning environment, attitudes and conceptual development associated with innovative strategies in middle-school mathematics. Learning Environments Research, 10, 101–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Riegle-Crumb, C., King, B., Grodsky, E., & Muller, C. (2012). The more things change, the more they stay the same? Prior achievement fails to explain gender inequality in entry to STEM college majors over time. American Educational Research Journal, 49, 1048–1073.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Schibeci, R. (2011). Productive partnerships: Advancing STEM education in Western Australian schools (A report to the Science Education Committee of Western Australian Technology & Industry Advisory Council, TIAC). Perth: Murdoch University.Google Scholar
  50. Sirrakos, G., Jr., & Fraser, B. J. (2017). A cross-national mixed-method study of reality pedagogy. Learning Environments Research, 20, 153–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Spinner, H., & Fraser, B. J. (2005). Evaluation of an innovative mathematics program in terms of classroom environment, student attitudes and conceptual development. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(2), 267–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Taylor, P. C., Fraser, B. J., & Fisher, D. L. (1997). Monitoring constructivist classroom learning environments. International Journal of Educational Research, 27, 293–302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Teh, G. P. L., & Fraser, B. J. (1995). Development and validation of an instrument for assessing the psychosocial environment of computer-assisted learning classrooms. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 12(2), 177–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Treagust, D. F., Duit, R., & Fraser, B. J. (1996). Overview: Research on students’ preinstructional conceptions—The driving force for improving teaching and learning in science and mathematics. In D. F. Treagust, R. Duit, & B. J. Fraser (Eds.), improving teaching and learning in science and mathematics (pp. 1–14). New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  55. Tytler, R., & Osborne, J. (2012). Student attitudes and aspirations towards science. In B. J. Fraser, K. G. Tobin, & C. J. McRobbie (Eds.), Second international handbook of science education (pp. 597–625). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. van Langen, A., & Dekkers, H. (2005). Cross-national differences in participation in tertiary science, technology, engineering and mathematics education. Comparative Education, 41(3), 329–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Walker, S. L. (2006). Development and validation of the test of geography-related attitudes (ToGRA). Journal of Geography, 105, 175–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Williams, P. J. (2001). The teaching and learning of technology in Australian primary and secondary schools (Department of Education, Science and Technology Working Report). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.Google Scholar
  59. Wolf, S. J., & Fraser, B. J. (2008). Learning environment, attitudes and achievement among middle-school science students using inquiry-based laboratory activities. Research in Science Education, 38, 321–341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Wong, A. F. L., & Fraser, B. J. (1996). Environment–attitude associations in the chemistry laboratory classroom. Research in Science and Technological Education, 14, 91–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. World Economic Forum. (2017). Realizing human potential in the fourth industrial revolution: An agenda for leaders to shape the future of education, gender and work. Switzerland.
  62. Zaragoza, J. M., & Fraser, B. J. (2017). Field-study science classrooms as positive and enjoyable learning environments. Learning Environments Research, 20, 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Zollman, A. (2012). Learning for STEM literacy: STEM literacy for learning. School Science and Mathematics, 112(1), 12–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rekha B. Koul
    • 1
  • Barry J. Fraser
    • 1
  • Nicoleta Maynard
    • 1
  • Moses Tade
    • 1
  1. 1.Curtin UniversityPerthAustralia

Personalised recommendations