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Elementary Students Learn How To Engineer Online (RTP)

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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 Technical Session 15

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Stacy S. Klein-Gardner Vanderbilt University

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Stacy Klein-Gardner's career in P-12 STEM education focuses on increasing interest in and participation by females and URMs and on teacher professional development. She is an Adjunct Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Vanderbilt University where she serves as the co-PI and co-Director of the NSF-funded Engineering For US All (e4usa) project. Dr. Klein-Gardner formerly served as the chair of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Board of Directors’ P12 Commission and the Pre-College Engineering Education division. She is also a Fellow of ASEE.

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The educational disruptions caused by COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 were vast. Schools utilized a variety of instructional methods from paper packets to varying amounts of online synchronous and asynchronous instruction. One Nashville independent elementary school provided lesson plans each day for students, with the assistance of their parents, to complete largely asynchronously. This type of instruction is received in a variety of ways by different families with some students thriving in instruction provided in a screen-heavy and worksheet-based format. To combat the difficulties encountered by families with two working parents and children frustrated by this type of learning, I created a zoom-conference based class consisting of three second grade children. Each day Monday through Thursday the children were presented a hands-on engineering design challenge that utilizes materials found in their homes. The children had not been previously exposed to the engineering design process (EDP). The research questions for this study were the following: 1) What are the impacts of teaching the engineering design process online via zoom conference? 2) How do students learn to receive and implement feedback from their peers and the teacher over zoom? 3) How is teamwork affected as compared to in-person experiences? To answer these questions, I derived data from recordings of the online sessions and observations of student behavior and statements, the PowerPoint slides that were used to facilitate the course, photos and videos created by parents of the students’ designs, and interviews with the children. Qualitative data analysis followed an inductive approach outlined by Miles, Huberman, and Saldaña [1]. The utilization of multiple data sources allowed for a complete picture of what is taking place during the sessions and how it impacted the children’s understanding and practice of the engineering design process. Early analysis indicates that students became very facile with the EDP and its steps. They looked forward to the design challenge each day, often using it as motivation to get through their required schoolwork before starting the challenge. At times they struggled to give and especially to receive feedback from their peers, particularly when it involved criticism. Further analysis will elucidate additional themes in response to the research questions.

Klein-Gardner, S. S. (2021, July), Elementary Students Learn How To Engineer Online (RTP) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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