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This content will become publicly available on August 23, 2023

Title: A balancing act: Elementary teachers and their students balancing tradeoffs in engineering design projects
This fundamental research in pre-college education engineering study investigates the ways in which elementary school students and their teacher balance the tradeoffs in engineering design. STEM education reforms promote the engagement of K-12 students in the epistemic practices of disciplinary experts to teach content.1,2,3 This emphasis on practices is a paradigm shift that requires both extensive professional development and research to learn about the ways in which students and teacher learn about and participate in these practices. Balancing tradeoffs is an important practice in engineering but most often in classroom curricula it is embedded in the concept of iteration1,4; however, improving a design is not always the same as balancing trade-offs.1 Optimizing a multivariate problem requires students to engage in a number of engineering practices, like considering multiple solution, making tradeoffs between criteria and constraints, applying math and science knowledge to problem solving, constructing models, making evidence-based decisions, and assessing the implications of solutions5. The ways in which teachers and students collectively balance these tradeoffs in a design has been understudied1. Our primary research questions are, “How do teachers and students make decisions about making tradeoffs between criteria and constraints” and “How do experiences in teacher workshops affect the ways more » they implement engineering projects in their classes.” We take an ethnographic perspective to investigate these phenomena, and collected video data, field notes, student journals, and semi-structured interviews of eight elementary teachers in a workshop and similar data from two of the workshop teachers’ classes as they implemented the curriculum they learned in the workshop. Our analyses focus on the disciplinary practices teachers and students use to make decisions for balancing tradeoffs, how they are supported (or impeded) by teachers, and how they justify these decisions. Similarly, we compared two of the teachers wearing their “student hat” in the workshop as well as their “teacher hat” in the classroom5. Our analyses suggest three significant findings. First, teachers and students tended to focus on one criterion (e.g. cost, performance) and had few discussions about trying to minimize cost and maximize performance. Second, curriculum design significantly impacts the choices students make. Using two examples, we will show the impact of weighting criteria differently on the design strategies teachers and students make. Last, we noted most of the feedback given was related to managing classroom activity rather than supporting students’ designs. Implications of this study are relevant to both engineering educators and engineering curriculum developers. « less
Authors:
;
Award ID(s):
1930777
Publication Date:
NSF-PAR ID:
10354814
Journal Name:
ASEE annual conference proceedings
ISSN:
1524-4857
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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