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Research or Report

Developing Transmedia Engineering Curricula using Cognitive Tools to Impact Learning and the Development of STEM Identity (RTP)

Glenn Ellis
Jeremiah Pina
Rebecca Mazur
Al Rudnitsky
Beth McGinnis-Cavanaugh
Published In
American Society for Engineering Education Conference 2020
Published Date
Grade Level
Middle School
Subject Area



This paper examines the use of Imaginative Education (IE) to create an NGSS-aligned middle school engineering curriculum that supports transfer and the development of STEM identity. In IE, cognitive tools—such as developmentally appropriate narratives, mysteries and fantasies— are used to design learning environments that both engage learners and help them organize knowledge productively. We have combined IE with transmedia storytelling to develop two multi-week engineering units and six shorter engineering lessons. An overview of the curriculum developed to date and a more detailed description of the engineering design unit is presented in this paper.

The curriculum is currently being implemented in treatment and non-treatment classrooms in middle schools throughout the Springfield, MA public school system (SPS). In tandem with pilot-year implementation of the curriculum, we have developed an assessment instrument to measure student learning outcomes associated with a transfer variant known as preparation for future learning (PFL). An analysis of the results from the PFL assessment support the position that a curriculum employing IE cognitive tools can facilitate both transfer-in thinking and the capacity of students to “think with” and thereby interpret important engineering concepts.