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“Adding Stuff From Other People”: How Peer Comparison Influences Conceptual Modeling in Precollege Engineering Contexts

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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

Design Across the Curriculum 2

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katelyn Stenger University of Virginia Orcid 16x16

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Katelyn Stenger is a Ph.D. fellow in the Behavioral Science for Sustainable Systems program at the Convergent Behavioral Science Initiative at the University of Virginia. She researches behavioral designs for complex systems. Previously, she worked as a mechanical engineer helping design and construct high-rise buildings. She received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.

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Jennifer L. Chiu University of Virginia

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Jennifer Chiu is an Associate Professor of STEM Education at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development. She holds a B.S. in Engineering (Product Design) from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Science Education from UC Berkeley. She researches how to support K-12 students, teachers, and preservice teachers across science, engineering, mathematics, and computer science disciplines as well as how to support STEM in informal learning contexts. Before becoming a professor, she worked as an engineer at Hewlett Packard and taught high school mathematics and science in California and Oklahoma.

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Sarah Jennings Fick Washington State University Orcid 16x16

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Sarah J Fick, Ph.D. is an assistant professor of Science Education in the Department of Teaching and Learning at the College of Education at Washington State University. She holds a BA in Biology and Environmental Studies from Bowdoin College, an MA in Science Education, an MS in Environmental Informatics, and a PhD in Science Education, all from the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on using qualitative methods to understand the intersection of teaching and learning in science education. She specifically focuses on the teaching practices needed to support students’ to develop knowledge of the content, practices, and analytical lenses used to develop science knowledge.

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Conceptual models serve as both as a design artifact and an object that communicates understanding about underlying systems. As such, conceptual modeling is considered as a crucial component of engineering design. Peer comparison and critique can help students develop conceptual models, yet little research explores how peer comparison activities can support conceptual model development in engineering settings. Therefore, we investigate why and how fifth-grade students made changes to their conceptual models after a peer comparison during a 4-week engineering design curriculum unit focused on water runoff at their school. Data sources included students’ conceptual models before and after the peer comparison, field notes, and student interviews after the peer comparison. To understand how students described their conceptual models and why any changes may have occurred, we interviewed twelve students and coded these interview transcripts at the utterance level. Results show that peer comparison activities can increase conceptual model quality. Further, peer comparison contributes to a diverse set of additional representations in students’ conceptual models. The study suggests peer comparisons of conceptual modeling may support students in realizing their peers are a great source of information, a critical realization to support positive engineering design experiences in K-12 and higher education.

Stenger, K., & Chiu, J. L., & Fick, S. J. (2021, July), “Adding Stuff From Other People”: How Peer Comparison Influences Conceptual Modeling in Precollege Engineering Contexts Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--36529

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