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Engineering for Colonial Times

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Addressing the NGSS, Part 1 of 3: Supporting K-8 Science Teachers in Engineering Pedagogy and Engineering-Science Connections

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.498.1 - 24.498.17



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Paper Authors


Mary McCormick Tufts University

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Mary McCormick is a PhD student in STEM Education at Tufts University. She received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at University of Massachusetts Lowell, and Master of Science in Civil Engineering at Tufts University. She is currently exploring how elementary students' nascent abilities for engineering design emerge during integrated engineering and literacy activities.

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Engineering for Colonial TimesIn the Framework for K-12 Science Education (Framework) (National Research Council (NRC),2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (Achieve, Inc., 2013) engineering hasbeen defined “in a very broad sense to mean any engagement in a systematic practice of designto achieve solutions to particular human problems” (NRC, 2012, p. 12). The expanded scope ofengineering is intended to encompass engineering design practices that “all citizens shouldlearn,” such as defining problems, identifying situational criteria and constraints, generating andevaluating multiple solutions, testing prototypes, and optimizing a solution (Achieve, Inc., 2013,Appendix 1, p. 1). Grounded in the notion that “children are natural engineers,” (NRC, 2012, p.70), the Framework and NGSS do not focus on how to teach engineering; instead, they call fordevelopment of meaningful experiences that will enable students to actively engage inengineering design practices while accessing and deepening their understanding of the coredisciplinary ideas. Further, the NGSS clarify that the aim is not to teach students specific contentor a set of engineering design steps to follow, but to cultivate and foster their natural abilities tonavigate a complex design process. For teachers, however, this charge may seem unclear andoverwhelming; because the Framework and NGSS are learning standards, or goals, that reflectwhat students should be able to know or do, neither provides teachers with classroom-basedevidence of student engineering or guidance in developing new curricula or instructional designs.In this qualitative case study, I illustrate and compare how two groups of third grade studentsengage in engineering design practices and access core ideas while participating in an integratedengineering and literacy project based on the book If you Lived in Colonial Times (McGovern,1964). Both groups of students have been tasked with designing engineering solutions thatwould “make life easier” for the people living during the colonial period of 1565 to 1776; eachgroup, however, takes a unique approach in developing a solution. While one group situatestheir design in the historical context, adhering to constraints of that time (e.g., materialavailability and tools), the other group situates their design in future time period, envisioning animaginative solution without recognizing a need for functionality. My analysis is motivated by(1) the divergent ways in which these two groups of students frame the engineering task, and (2)how each group’s framing influences their engineering design practices and decisions. Incollaboration with a team of researchers, I take an interaction analysis approach to characterizethe dynamics of student framing by attending to students’ discourse, gestures, and interactionswith representations (Jordan & Henderson, 1995). I then examine how students’ framings of theengineering design task enable or hinder their engagement of engineering design practices andaccess to core ideas. Lastly, I describe pedagogical implications for supporting students inframing the task as engineers, and creating learning experiences in which they mayspontaneously engage in engineering design practices and build on core disciplinary ideas in thepursuit of engineering solutions.  

McCormick, M. (2014, June), Engineering for Colonial Times Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20389

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