Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This study investigated ways to support young children’s STEM learning and ability to generalize their knowledge across informal learning experiences. Participants were 128 parents and their 4- to 8-year-old children (Mage = 6.63, SD = 1.38). Families were randomly assigned to receive engineering instructions, transfer instructions, both engineering and transfer instructions, or neither. They were then observed working together to solve an engineering problem, and immediately afterward, the children were invited to solve a second engineering problem on their own. Families who received engineering instructions – either alone or in combination with the transfer instructions - were more successful at solving the first engineering problem than those who received only transfer instructions or no instructions. Moreover, parents asked more open-ended questions and talked more about science and mathematics if they received both engineering and transfer instructions. Lastly, children who received both engineering and transfer instructions were better at solving the second engineering problem than those who received only one set of instructions or no instructions. Implications of the work for research in the field and for informal educational environments and their visitors are discussed.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.