June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
Effective communication is central to engineering design (Dannels, 2005; Cennamo et al., 2010). However, even professional designers struggle with in-team communication, with literature reporting misunderstandings, conflict avoidance, and persuasion (Cross & Cross, 1998). Young learners are likely have even greater difficulties navigating communication challenges when engaged in engineering learning projects. Middle school designers simultaneously regulate the design task, collaborative relationships, and their own engineering identity during a design project (Author, 2013). Yet, there is a gap in the literature about how communication is perceived by the students themselves. Little is known about middle school designers’ perspectives on their own communication challenges or their perspectives on their peer’s communication challenges.
In a design-based experiment, we compared the perspectives of collaborative middle school designers and peer observers assigned to their group during a three-day design-reflect-design process. On day 1 and day 3, the designers collaborated to design two distinct but similar marshmallow towers while their peer observer took notes about their communication. The peer observers used an observation instrument, recording notes about two social challenges, negotiating roles and responsibilities (Who’s doing what?) and evaluating progress (How are we doing?); and two task challenges, understanding the task (Are we doing this right?) and generating design ideas (How can we solve this problem?) (See Author, 2013, 2014; Jarvela & Jarvenoja, 2010; Kolodner et al., 2003). The designers then completed five reflection questions about their communication, while the peer observers met in a separate room to compare their observations. On day 2, peer observers collectively debriefed then gave their classmates feedback and suggestions for improving communication.
In previous analysis of the designers’ self-report data related to communication challenges (Authors, 2015), we found that these learners engaged in the focal design processes grew in their metacognitive awareness of their group’s communication patterns across an engineering design-reflect-design procedures, but not in their individual-level interactions. Middle-school students need a great deal of scaffolding and practice developing their collaboration skills since perspective taking and understanding diversity are not innate capabilities. Thus, in the current study, qualitative analyses focused on comparing designers’ perceptions of those of outsiders’ perspectives. Specifically, we asked: RQ1: What to peer observers notice and report about how the observed design teams negotiate communication challenges?
RQ2: How do peer observers’ noticings change from Day 1 to Day 3?
Analysis suggests that understanding learners’ perspectives on their own communication patterns – and the perspective of peer observers - may help educators and researchers design strategies to improve peer-to-peer communication and enhance engineering education.
Jordan, M., & DeLaRosa, M. (2017, June), Board # 97 : Investigating Peer Observers' Perspectives on Middle School Engineering Designers' Communication Challenges (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/27966
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