Non-sequential Learning in a Robotics Class: Insights from the Engagement of a Child with Autism Spectrum Disorder

  • Sung Eun JungEmail author
  • Kyunghwa Lee
  • Shara Cherniak
  • Eunji Cho
Original research


This case study focused on the robotics learning process of Mark (a pseudonym), a Latino-American second grader diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Drawing on Polanyi’s (Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy [Kindle version], 1958/2015) notion of “tacit knowing” and “dwelling in tools,” we attempted to understand Mark’s unique processes and ways of engaging in learning about a Light Sensor by pursuing two research questions: (a) How does Mark, with his unique behavioral and socio-emotional characteristics, engage in the robotics class? (b) What insights can we gain from his inquiry as we develop responsive robotics education? Findings revealed that Mark used a non-sequential inquiry process filled with repetitive free explorations and unexpected expanded inquiries about the Light Sensor. This non-sequential inquiry process highlighted that dwelling with robotic manipulatives was Mark’s distinct ways of exploring the Light Sensor. His non-sequential inquiry process emerged from his tacit engagement and expanded to his sophisticated and holistic understanding of the Light Sensor. We discuss implications for a robotics education program that is responsive to young children with diverse needs and characteristics.


Early childhood robotics education STEM Autism spectrum disorder Non-sequential learning Tacit engagement 



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Teaching, Learning, and Sociocultural StudiesUniversity of ArizonaTucsonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Educational Theory and PracticeUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Division of Social ScienceEastfield CollegeMesquiteUSA

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