skip to main content

Title: Students' use of STEM content in design justifications during engineering design‐based STEM integration

Engineering design‐based STEM integration is one potential model to help students integrate content and practices from all of the STEM disciplines. In this study, we explored the intersection of two aspects of pre‐college STEM education: the integration of the STEM disciplines, and the NGSS practice of engaging in argument from evidence within engineering. Specifically, our research question was: While generating and justifying solutions to engineering design problems in engineering design‐based STEM integration units, what STEM content do elementary and middle school students discuss? We used naturalistic inquiry to analyze student team audio recordings from seven curricular units in order to identify the variety of STEM content present as students justified their design ideas and decisions (i.e., used evidence‐based reasoning). Within the four disciplines, fifteen STEM content categories emerged. Particularly interesting were the science and mathematics categories. All seven student teams used unit‐based science, and five used unit‐based mathematics, to support their design ideas. Five teams also applied science and/or mathematics content that was outside the scope of the units' learning objectives. Our results demonstrate that students integrated content from all four STEM disciplines when justifying engineering design ideas and solutions, thus supporting engineering design‐based STEM integration as a curricular model.

more » « less
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
Date Published:
Journal Name:
School Science and Mathematics
Page Range / eLocation ID:
p. 457-474
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract Background

    As engineering becomes increasingly incorporated into precollege classrooms, it is important to explore students' ability to engage in engineering practices. One of these practices,engaging in argument from evidence, has been well studied in science education. However, it has not yet been fully explored in engineering education.


    This study aims to identify the classroom situations that prompt students to justify their engineering design ideas and decisions. The following research question guided the study:What initiates the need for fifth‐ to eighth‐grade students to use evidence‐based reasoning (EBR) while they are generating solutions to engineering design problems in engineering design‐based science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) integration units?


    Within the naturalistic inquiry methodology, we analyzed student team audio recordings from the implementation of seven different engineering design‐based STEM integration curricula across three school districts to identify instances of EBR and categorize the situations that led to them.


    This analysis produced seven categories of situations that prompted students to use EBR. Two of these categories,responding to adultanddocumenting, were teacher‐prompted; students frequently justified their design ideas and decisions when talking with adults or responding to prompts on worksheets. The other five categories were student‐directed:negotiating,correcting,validating,clarifying with team, andsharing. These categories occurred without direct prompts from adults or documents.


    This study offers implications for teachers and curriculum developers about how to explicitly integrate scaffolds for EBR into design‐based curricula as well as what situations teachers can look for to observe student‐directed use of EBR.

    more » « less
  2. Innovation training is considered critical for the future of our country, yet despite the important role, opportunities for students to develop innovation skills are limited. For STEM students, training in innovation principles and processes are frequently extra curricular pursuits, such as unpaid internships with start up organizations, shadowing innovation professionals, or obtaining an additional business degree or minor covering innovation principles. The National Science Foundation has funded the authors with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (S STEM) grant to provide scholarships combined with research on best practices for recruitment, retention, and development of innovation skills for a diverse group of low income undergraduate students. Students in the program come from STEM disciplines in engineering and the physical sciences however, business students are also integrated into innovation courses although they are not funded by the S STEM grant Design, development, and implementation of the grant funded program’s first innovation related course, a 2 week fall intercession course will be presented Th is first year course is designed to provide the students with an introduction to innovation, develop and nurture the students’ innovation mindset and skills, and also help the students’ successful transition to college. The first-year two-week intercession course was designed and developed with two credit hours focusing on content related to innovation and one credit hour focusing on student success topics. The significant academic course components included: 1) interactive active-learning modules related to innovation processes, identifying where good ideas come from, working in teams, leadership, project management, and communication and presentation skills; 2) team innovation projects, one topic-assigned, applying skills learned in the content modules to develop innovation and team collaboration skills; and 3) integration of business students with STEM students which together gives viewpoints and experiences on product and customer needs. It is important to our nation’s health and safety to instill innovation in our students. In addition, today’s students are interested in innovation and in learning how to apply innovation techniques in their professional and personal lives. The course was designed for teams of four STEM students to one business student which provides a balanced input needed for this type of project taking into account the skillset of the technically oriented STEM students and the marketing-oriented business students, as well as personality types. This ensures that all voices are heard, and topical areas are addressed. There was no problem in getting faculty interest in developing the course, and the collaboration between retention professionals and faculty went well. After the course, an iterative improvement retrospective will be performed on the program as implemented to this point to inform improvements for next year’s cohort. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 2030297. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. 
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    Management education holds promise for addressing deficiencies in interuniversity science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), as well as sustainability curricula. Accordingly, we designed, developed, implemented, and longitudinally evaluated interdisciplinary STEM-based curricula in the United States. Students in five sections of business management courses and two sections of STEM courses received a STEM-based sustainability intervention (i.e., an interdisciplinary STEM and sustainability module). To assess student outcomes following the intervention and examine the feasibility of cognitive mapping as a student learning assessment tool, we implemented a pre- and post-course modified cognitive mapping assessment in treatment and comparison courses. To interpret the results, we ran descriptives, correlations, paired sample t tests, and principal component analysis. The t tests suggest that when all coding categories are considered, those participating in curricular interventions listed significantly more sustainability terms. The principal component analysis results demonstrate that treatment courses improved variability explained by 7.23% between pre- and post-tests but declined by 8.22% for comparison courses. Overall, linkages became stronger between parent code categories for treatment courses and weaker for comparison courses. These findings add to existing research related to cognitive mapping and demonstrate the ability of the method to capture changes in student outcomes after exposure to STEM-based sustainability curriculum. 
    more » « less
  4. The population of students in Puerto Rico that has enrolled in higher education within the last six years has been severely affected by a compound effect of the many major humanitarian crises, including a deteriorated economy since the 2006 Great Recession, Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, earthquakes in 2019 and 2020, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic since 2020, and Hurricane Fiona in 2022. To ensure that students can cope with the aftermath of these natural disasters, the following programs were conceived: The Ecosystem to Expand Capabilities and Opportunities for STEM-Scholars (EECOS), the Resilient Infrastructure and Sustainability Education Undergraduate Program (RISE-UP) and The Noyce Teacher Scholars Program – (NoTeS), all three programs are funded by the National Science Foundation. EECOS developed a support ecosystem that consists of three elements: academic support, socio-emotional support, and financial support. NoTeS. provides talented Hispanic low-socioeconomic bilingual undergraduate or recently graduated STEM majors and professionals up to two years of scholarship funding as well as academic and professional support as they complete the requirements to obtain teacher certification to become K-12 math and science teachers. This program seeks to increase the number of K-12 teachers with strong STEM content knowledge to fill the need for teachers in high-need school districts. RISE-UP was conceptualized to educate architecture and engineering students to work in interdisciplinary teams to provide resilient and sustainable design and construction solutions to infrastructure challenges. To date, EECOS has directly impacted XX students and graduated XXX students. NoTeS has helped nineteen scholars and ten affiliates (participants of the activities without the scholarship) partake. Eight of the nine alums scholars now work as math or science teachers in a high-needs school. RISE-UP has had 127 scholars who are enrolled or have completed the RISE-UP curricular sequence. This paper provides effective practices and a baseline characterization that universities can use to help students overcome the effects of natural disasters and promote student success using ecosystems of support that expand capabilities and opportunities, particularly for STEM scholars. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract Background

    Integration of engineering into middle school science and mathematics classrooms is a key aspect of STEM integration. However, successful pedagogies for teachers to use engineering talk in their classrooms are not fully understood.


    This study aims to address this need with the research question: How does a middle school life science teacher use engineering talk during an engineering design‐based STEM integration unit?


    This case study examined the talk of a teacher whose students demonstrated high levels of learning in science and engineering throughout a three‐year professional development program. Transcripts of whole‐class verbal interactions for 18 class periods in the life science‐based STEM integration unit were analyzed using a theoretical framework based on the Framework for Quality K‐12 Engineering Education.


    The teacher used talk to integrate engineering in a variety of ways, skillfully weaving engineering throughout the unit. He framed lessons around problem scoping, incorporated engineering ideas into scientific verbal interactions, and aligned individual lessons and the overall unit with the engineering design process. He stayed true to the context of the engineering challenge and treated the students as young engineers.


    This teacher's talk helped to integrate engineering with the science and mathematics content of the unit and modeled the practices of informed designers to help students learn engineering in the context of their science classroom. These findings have the potential to improve how educators and curricula developers utilize engineering teacher talk to support STEM integration.

    more » « less