skip to main content

Title: Student Communication of Engineering Design Solutions
Communication of ideas involves the simultaneous efforts of verbal, physical and neurological processes (Sherr, 2008). In elementary classrooms where young students are in the process of developing their verbal capacities, gestures from both the teacher and students serve as a key component of communication of new ideas and the processing of social information (Foglia & Wilson, 2013). Thus far, research efforts to understand how students utilize gestures in the communication and understanding of ideas have focused primarily on mathematics and the physical sciences (see Nemirovsky & Ferrara, 2009; Nuñez, Edwards & Matos, 1999; Shapiro, 2014; Sherr, 2008). With the introduction of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013), students engineering is now included in K-12 instruction. Engineering education centers around designing and optimizing solutions to engineering challenges. The creation of a design solution differentiates engineering education from other classroom subject areas. Current work in engineering education focuses mostly on students’ words or drawings, leaving out gestures as an important component of students' communication of engineering designs. This study aimed to contribute to the general understanding of students’ use of gestures and manipulatives when discussing their engineering design solutions and is part of a larger NSF-funded project. Students participated more » in pre- and post-field trip classroom activities that extended learning done on an engineering-focused field trip to the local science center into the classroom. For this study, we focused on a module that challenged students to design a craft that either slowed the fall of a penny (classroom engineering design challenge) or hovered in a column of upward moving air (field trip engineering design challenge). We analyzed six videos (3 from the classroom and 3 from the field trip) of first-grade student explanations of their crafts to identify their use of gestures and prototyped craft design solutions in communicating. In this paper, we explore how student use of gestures and use of prototyped design solutions overlap and differentiate to understand how student sense-making can be understood through each. « less
Authors:
; ;
Award ID(s):
1824856
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10285030
Journal Name:
2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access
Volume:
2021
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
37741
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. As our nation’s need for engineering professionals grows, a sharp rise in P-12 engineering education programs and related research has taken place (Brophy, Klein, Portsmore, & Rogers, 2008; Purzer, Strobel, & Cardella, 2014). The associated research has focused primarily on students’ perceptions and motivations, teachers’ beliefs and knowledge, and curricula and program success. The existing research has expanded our understanding of new K-12 engineering curriculum development and teacher professional development efforts, but empirical data remain scarce on how racial and ethnic diversity of student population influences teaching methods, course content, and overall teachers’ experiences. In particular, Hynes et al. (2017)more »note in their systematic review of P-12 research that little attention has been paid to teachers’ experiences with respect to racially and ethnically diverse engineering classrooms. The growing attention and resources being committed to diversity and inclusion issues (Lichtenstein, Chen, Smith, & Maldonado, 2014; McKenna, Dalal, Anderson, & Ta, 2018; NRC, 2009) underscore the importance of understanding teachers’ experiences with complementary research-based recommendations for how to implement engineering curricula in racially diverse schools to engage all students. Our work examines the experiences of three high school teachers as they teach an introductory engineering course in geographically and distinctly different racially diverse schools across the nation. The study is situated in the context of a new high school level engineering education initiative called Engineering for Us All (E4USA). The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded initiative was launched in 2018 as a partnership among five universities across the nation to ‘demystify’ engineering for high school students and teachers. The program aims to create an all-inclusive high school level engineering course(s), a professional development platform, and a learning community to support student pathways to higher education institutions. An introductory engineering course was developed and professional development was provided to nine high school teachers to instruct and assess engineering learning during the first year of the project. This study investigates participating teachers’ implementation of the course in high schools across the nation to understand the extent to which their experiences vary as a function of student demographic (race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status) and resource level of the school itself. Analysis of these experiences was undertaken using a collective case-study approach (Creswell, 2013) involving in-depth analysis of a limited number of cases “to focus on fewer "subjects," but more "variables" within each subject” (Campbell & Ahrens, 1998, p. 541). This study will document distinct experiences of high school teachers as they teach the E4USA curriculum. Participants were purposively sampled for the cases in order to gather an information-rich data set (Creswell, 2013). The study focuses on three of the nine teachers participating in the first cohort to implement the E4USA curriculum. Teachers were purposefully selected because of the demographic makeup of their students. The participating teachers teach in Arizona, Maryland and Tennessee with predominantly Hispanic, African-American, and Caucasian student bodies, respectively. To better understand similarities and differences among teaching experiences of these teachers, a rich data set is collected consisting of: 1) semi-structured interviews with teachers at multiple stages during the academic year, 2) reflective journal entries shared by the teachers, and 3) multiple observations of classrooms. The interview data will be analyzed with an inductive approach outlined by Miles, Huberman, and Saldaña (2014). All teachers’ interview transcripts will be coded together to identify common themes across participants. Participants’ reflections will be analyzed similarly, seeking to characterize their experiences. Observation notes will be used to triangulate the findings. Descriptions for each case will be written emphasizing the aspects that relate to the identified themes. Finally, we will look for commonalities and differences across cases. The results section will describe the cases at the individual participant level followed by a cross-case analysis. This study takes into consideration how high school teachers’ experiences could be an important tool to gain insight into engineering education problems at the P-12 level. Each case will provide insights into how student body diversity impacts teachers’ pedagogy and experiences. The cases illustrate “multiple truths” (Arghode, 2012) with regard to high school level engineering teaching and embody diversity from the perspective of high school teachers. We will highlight themes across cases in the context of frameworks that represent teacher experience conceptualizing race, ethnicity, and diversity of students. We will also present salient features from each case that connect to potential recommendations for advancing P-12 engineering education efforts. These findings will impact how diversity support is practiced at the high school level and will demonstrate specific novel curricular and pedagogical approaches in engineering education to advance P-12 mentoring efforts.« less
  2. We worked with local K–6 teachers to develop lesson plans that would connect a 50-minute engineering design challenge, completed during a field trip, to the students’ classroom learning. The result was a model for designing pre-visit classroom activities that develop students’ familiarity with phenomena, tools, and processes that will be used during the field trip and post-visit classroom activities that provide students with opportunities to reflect on some of their field trip experiences. While the field trip activity alone is an exciting and productive learning opportunity, students who complete the full set of classroom and field trip activities participate inmore »a richer experience that engages them in more of the practices of science and engineering and more fully develops the disciplinary core ideas related to engineering and physical science. Each Engineering Exploration module includes four activities: an engineering design activity completed during a field trip to an interactive science museum, accompanied by two preactivities and one post activity done in students’ classroom and facilitated by their elementary school teacher. While each classroom activity was designed to take no more than 50 minutes, many teachers found it valuable to extend each lesson to allow for deeper discussion and engagement with the activities. The classroom experiences presented here are associated with a field trip program in which students iteratively design a craft out of paper and tape that will hover above a “fire” (upward moving column of air) while carrying a “sensor” (washer). The classroom activities surrounding this field trip help students develop conceptual understandings of forces to navigate the engineering design challenge.« less
  3. This study investigates how teachers verbally support students to engage in integrated engineering, science, and computer science activities across the implementation of an engineering project. This is important as recent research has focused on understanding how precollege students’ engagement in engineering practices is supported by teachers (Watkins et al., 2018) and the benefits of integrating engineering in precollege classes, including improved achievement in science, ability to engage in science and engineering practices inherent to engineering (i.e., engineering design), and increased awareness of engineering (National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council; Katehi et al., 2009). Further, there is amore »national emphasis on integrating engineering, science, and computer science practices and concepts in science classrooms (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Yet little research has considered how teachers implement these disciplines together within one classroom, particularly elementary teachers who often have little prior experience in teaching engineering and may need support to integrate engineering design into elementary science classroom settings. In particular, this study explores how elementary teachers verbally support science and computer science concepts and practices to be implicitly and explicitly integrated into an engineering project by implementing support intended by curricular materials and/or adding their own verbal support. Implicit use of integration included students engaging in integrated practices without support to know that they were doing so; explicit use of integration included teachers providing support for students to know how and why they were integrating disciplines. Our research questions include: (1) To what extent did teachers provide implicit and explicit verbal support of integration in implementation versus how it was intended in curricular materials? (2) Does this look different between two differently-tracked class sections? Participants include two fifth-grade teachers who co-led two fifth-grade classes through a four-week engineering project. The project focused on redesigning school surfaces to mitigate water runoff. Teachers integrated disciplines by supporting students to create computational models of underlying scientific concepts to develop engineering solutions. One class had a larger proportion of students who were tracked into accelerated mathematics; the other class had a larger proportion of students with individualized educational plans (IEPs). Transcripts of whole class discussion were analyzed for instances that addressed the integration of disciplines or supported students to engage in integrated activities. Results show that all instances of integration were implicit for the class with students in advanced mathematics while most were explicit for the class with students with IEPs. Additionally, support was mainly added by the teachers rather than suggested by curricular materials. Most commonly, teachers added integration between computer science and engineering. Implications of this study are an important consideration for the support that teachers need to engage in the important, but challenging, work of integrating science and computer science practices through engineering lessons within elementary science classrooms. Particularly, we consider how to assist teachers with their verbal supports of integrated curricula through engineering lessons in elementary classrooms. This study then has the potential to significantly impact the state of knowledge in interdisciplinary learning through engineering for elementary students.« less
  4. Engineering Explorations are curriculum modules that engage children across contexts in learning about science and engineering. We used them to leverage multiple education sectors (K–12 schools, museums, higher education, and afterschool programs) across a community to provide engineering learning experiences for youth, while increasing local teachers’ capacity to deliver high-quality engineering learning opportunities that align with school standards. Focusing on multiple partners that serve youth in the same community provides opportunities for long-term collaborations and programs developed in response to local needs. In a significant shift from earlier sets of standards, the Next Generation Science Standards include engineering design, withmore »the goal of providing students with a foundation “to better engage in and aspire to solve the major societal and environmental challenges they will face in decades ahead” (NGSS Lead States 2013, Appendix I). Including engineering in K–12 standards is a positive step forward in introducing students to engineering; however, K–12 teachers are not prepared to facilitate high-quality engineering activities. Research has consistently shown that elementary teachers are not confident in teaching science, especially physical science, and generally have little knowledge of engineering (Trygstad 2013). K–12 teachers, therefore, will need support. Our goal was to create a program that took advantage of the varied resources across a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) education ecosystem to support engineering instruction for youth across multiple contexts, while building the capacity of educators and meeting the needs of each organization. Specifically, we developed mutually reinforcing classroom and field trip activities to improve student learning and a curriculum to improve teacher learning. This challenging task required expertise in school-based standards, engineering education, informal education, teacher professional development, and classroom and museum contexts.« less
  5. Over the past two decades, educators have used computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) to integrate technology with pedagogy to improve student engagement and learning outcomes. Researchers have also explored the diverse affordances of CSCL, its contributions to engineering instruction, and its effectiveness in K-12 STEM education. However, the question of how students use CSCL resources in undergraduate engineering classrooms remains largely unexplored. This study examines the affordances of a CSCL environment utilized in a sophomore dynamics course with particular attention given to the undergraduate engineering students’ use of various CSCL resources. The resources include a course lecturebook, instructor office hours, amore »teaching assistant help room, online discussion board, peer collaboration, and demonstration videos. This qualitative study uses semi-structured interview data collected from nine mechanical engineering students (four women and five men) who were enrolled in a dynamics course at a large public research university in Eastern Canada. The interviews focused on the individual student’s perceptions of the school, faculty, students, engineering courses, and implemented CSCL learning environment. The thematic analysis was conducted to analyze the transcribed interviews using a qualitative data analysis software (Nvivo). The analysis followed a six step process: (1) reading interview transcripts multiple times and preliminary in vivo codes; (2) conducting open coding by coding interesting or salient features of the data; (3) collecting codes and searching for themes; (4) reviewing themes and creating a thematic map; (5) finalizing themes and their definitions; and (6) compiling findings. This study found that the students’ use of CSCL resources varied depending on the students’ personal preferences, as well as their perceptions of the given resource’s value and its potential to enhance their learning. For example, the dynamics lecturebook, which had been redesigned to encourage problem solving and note-taking, fostered student collaborative problem solving with their peers. In contrast, the professor’s example video solutions had much more of an influence on students’ independent problem-solving processes. The least frequently used resource was the course’s online discussion forum, which could be used as a means of communication. The findings reveal how computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) environments enable engineering students to engage in multiple learning opportunities with diverse and flexible resources to both address and to clarify their personal learning needs. This study strongly recommends engineering instructors adapt a CSCL environment for implementation in their own unique classroom context.« less