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Board 110: Work in Progress: Elementary Students’ Disciplinary Talk in a Classroom with an Explicit Engineering Decision-making Scaffold

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Conference

2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition

Location

Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

Page Count

9

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/32188

Download Count

5

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Paper Authors

biography

Nicole Alexandra Batrouny Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

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PhD candidate in Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University. Interests: upper elementary engineering education, integrated science and engineering, collaboration in engineering, decision making in engineering.

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biography

Karen Miel Tufts University

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Karen Miel is a PhD student in STEM Education at Tufts University. Karen served as the Director of Research and Innovation at the science center CuriOdyssey and the Education Director of the Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo after teaching elementary and middle school. Her research focuses on elementary students’ reasoning and decision-making in collaborative engineering design.

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biography

Kristen B. Wendell Tufts University

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Kristen Wendell is Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Education at Tufts University. Her research efforts at at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach focus on supporting discourse and design practices during K-12, teacher education, and college-level engineering learning experiences, and increasing access to engineering in the elementary school experience, especially in under-resourced schools. In 2016 she was a recipient of the U.S. Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE). https://engineering.tufts.edu/me/people/faculty/kristen-bethke-wendell

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Abstract

While engineering grows as a part of elementary education, important questions arise about the skills and practices we ask of students. Both collaboration and decision making are complex and critical to the engineering design process, but come with social and emotional work that can be difficult for elementary students to navigate. Productive engagement in collaborative teams has been seen to be highly variable; for some teams, interpersonal conflicts move the design process forward, while for others they stall the process. In this work in progress, we are investigating the research question, what is the nature of students’ disciplinary talk during scaffolded decision making?

We explore this research question via a case study of one student group in a 4th-grade classroom enrolled in an outreach program run by a private university in a Northeastern city. This program sends pairs of university students into local elementary schools to facilitate engineering in the classroom for one hour per week. This is the only engineering instruction the elementary students receive and the engineering curriculum is planned by the university students. For the implementation examined in this study, the curriculum was designed by two researchers to scaffold collaborative groupwork and decision making. The instruction was provided by an undergraduate and one of the researchers, a graduate student.

The scaffolds designed for this semester of outreach include a set of groupwork norms and a decision matrix. The groupwork norms were introduced on the first day of instruction; the instructors read them aloud, proposed groupwork scenarios to facilitate a whole class discussion about whether or not the norms were followed and how the students could act to follow the norms, and provided time for students to practice the norms in their engineering design groups for the first project. For the rest of the semester, an anchor chart of the norms was displayed in the classroom and referenced to encourage consensus. The researchers designed the decision matrix scaffold to encourage design decisions between multiple prototypes based on problem criteria and test results. Instructors modeled the use of this decision matrix on the third day of instruction, and students utilized the matrix in both design projects of the semester.

Data sources for this descriptive study include students’ written artifacts, photos of their design constructions, and video records of whole-class and team discourse. We employ qualitative case study and microethnographic analysis techniques to explore the influence of the intentional discourse scaffolds on students’ collaborative and decision-making practices. Our analysis allowed us to characterize the linguistic resources (including the decision matrix) that the students used to complete four social acts during decision making: design evaluation, disagreeing with a teammate, arguing for a novel idea, and sympathizing with a design. This research has implications for the design of instructional scaffolds for engineering curricula at the elementary school level, whether taking place in an outreach program or in regular classroom instruction.

Batrouny, N. A., & Miel, K., & Wendell, K. B. (2019, June), Board 110: Work in Progress: Elementary Students’ Disciplinary Talk in a Classroom with an Explicit Engineering Decision-making Scaffold Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. https://peer.asee.org/32188

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