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A Student Groupwork Spectrum for Engineering Design Collaboration

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Resource Exchange

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katherine Levenick Shirey EduKatey Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Katey Shirey’s work stems from her combined interests in science, art, and education. Dr. Shirey graduated from the University of Virginia with bachelor’s degrees in physics and sculpture. She received her master’s in secondary science education, also from Virginia, and taught Physics at Washington-Liberty High School in Arlington, VA. Dr. Shirey received her Ph.D. in 2017 from the University of Maryland in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on teacher challenges and productive resources for integrating engineering design into high-school physics. Through her work as a Knowles Teacher Initiative Senior Fellow and founder of eduKatey, Dr. Shirey helps high-school science and math teachers leverage engineering-design instruction for content learning and increased student problem-solving agency.

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Engineering design teams are a hallmark of engineering design, so creating group work opportunities for students to practice working in teams is a critical part of teaching students engineering practices. In the online space, many traditional group work strategies for design challenges don’t work as well. Drawing on a range of collaborative practices from a variety of research and real-life contexts, I developed a spectrum of engineering design group work options for high school teachers to use in online and in-person instruction. The purpose of this spectrum is to provide practical choices for teachers to continue to use group work in engineering design instruction even as normal classroom routines and settings are disrupted by distance learning online or socially distanced learning in the classroom. So far, I’ve piloted options in the spectrum with high schoolers in a coding and engineering-design focused summer camp (abstract for that paper is also submitted in PCEE) and have begun to share the spectrum as a tool with teachers as well.

The resource I will share at the PCEE curriculum exchange will be a two-sided handout/slide. The first page will have the spectrum of group work strategies for high school students engaging in engineering design. The main feature of this page will be a chart showing the spectrum, arranged from more student interdependence to less student inter-dependence. The spectrum includes the following levels: 7) The three-legged race, 6) Driver & navigator, 5) Tag team (individual stages that can be linked), 4) Cohesive collections, 3) Co-define problem, design independently, 2) Critical friends, 1) Group critique, 0) Solo work (no interdependence). Each of the seven strategies will be described and examples for projects and classroom setting will be provided for each. Teaching guidance and research-based references will be provided for each. A note will also be included to make it clear that these are not the only possibilities for group work, and that teachers are invited to alter or add to this spectrum and email the author to collaborate on ideas. While the examples on the second page showcase secondary students' group work, comments will indicate the applicability and limitations of this spectrum in various elementary and post-secondary contexts.

The second page of the handout/slide will provide two high school instruction examples of collaboration for the same design challenge: coding an app using the engineering design process. One example will describe how student teams worked in a “three-legged race” style to complete the challenge in a classroom setting. The other example will describe how students used “cohesive collections” during the engineering design process in an online summer camp to create their apps. Both examples will include de-identified student comments about the process and group interactions. Finally, commentary on these examples will draw out the advantages and disadvantages of each.

The handout/slide will also include contact information for the author.

Shirey, K. L. (2021, July), A Student Groupwork Spectrum for Engineering Design Collaboration Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36611

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