Study into the motivational use of LEGO

A Study of Motivation and Problem Solving Using LEGO® Education BuildToExpress™ in Elementary Social Studies Lessons


Cindy Little, Ph.D.


BuildToExpress™ is a process that focuses on developing academic, social, and cognitive skills in individuals from ages six to adult. The process uses LEGO® Education Expressions Sets that allow for the building of thoughts and ideas and contains the following four core elements:

  1. The Challenge: A facilitator asks participants to build something.
  2. The Building Phase: Participants build their responses using their individual LEGO sets.
  3. The Sharing Phase: Participants share their model with others.
  4. The Recap: The facilitator and participants summarize what was learned.

The main purpose of this mixed-methods study was to investigate whether or not this process impacted motivation and problem-solving skills in fourth-grade students during social studies lessons at an elementary school in central Texas.

The research design encompassed the following three primary objectives:

  1. To find out if students experience flow while using BuildToExpress
  2. To find out if using BuildToExpress increases intrinsic motivation
  3. To explore teacher and student perceptions of using BuildToExpress while solving problems


To ensure the validity of the study, the following steps were built into the research design: Choosing three classrooms (two experimental and one control) with similar student populations; triangulation of data collected on flow (two trained observers comparing observed flow behaviors with student self-reports); the use of a standardized, psychometrically valid and reliable instrument to measure intrinsic motivation (the Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation Inventory) in an ABA modified time series experimental design; and a list of interview questions used across all group interviews.

The results of the study were very favorable:

  1. All students experienced mid to high levels of flow across every study session.
  2. Test results supported the idea that BuildToExpress increased intrinsic motivation (see below).
  1. Student and teacher interviews revealed that BuildToExpress positively impacted problem solving.

A bit about Dr. Little:

Dr. Cindy Little holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from Baylor University, an M.A.T. in gifted education from Whitworth College, and a BA in elementary education from Northwest University. She is currently an instructor at Baylor’s School of Education where she teaches research methods and child development courses. She also has extensive experience as a senior editor and managing editor of gifted education journals, has more than 16 years experience working in pre-K through university level learning environments, and owns her own research and consulting business ( Her areas of research interest and expertise are the theory of flow, creativity, critical thinking, and qualitative research methods.

A firm believer in constructivist, hands-on approaches to learning, Dr. Little regularly incorporates the use of the BuildToExpress process into her university coursework. She believes that in order for her students to become the best teachers, she needs to model best teaching practices. It is not enough for students to simply hear a lecture about how to use the BuildToExpress process. They need to experience the process and learn through it for themselves. She has found this approach to be very successful with her students as they find the process highly motivating and a new way to learn. It is always fun to watch adult students set their laptops, pencils, and notebooks aside and begin to build such things as their personal paradigms of education or models of best parenting practices. Dr. Little believes the BuildToExpress process holds great potential for learning across all ages of students, and she will continue to use it in both her teaching and research.

Published by makingpi

Our interest is to create a brilliant practical applied maths programme for teaching students who struggle with engaging in Maths. Our interests range from building bridges to making beautiful silver objects.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: