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Engineering Together: Context in Dyadic Talk During an Engineering Task (K-12 Fundamental)

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2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Seattle, Washington

Publication Date

June 14, 2015

Start Date

June 14, 2015

End Date

June 17, 2015





Conference Session

Fundamental: K-12 Students and Engineering Design Practices (Part 2)

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Tagged Topic


Page Count


Page Numbers

26.648.1 - 26.648.8



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Paper Authors


Brianna L Dorie Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Dorie is a current graduate of

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Monica E Cardella Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16


Gina Navoa Svarovsky University of Notre Dame

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Gina Navoa Svarovsky is an Assistant Professor of Practice at the University of Notre Dame's Center for STEM Education and the College of Engineering. She has studied how young people learn engineering for over a decade.

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Engineering together: Context in dyadic talk during an engineering task (K-12 Fundamental)Exploring how children develop early interest and understanding in engineering canprovide useful information for the ongoing efforts to increase the access of women inengineering careers. Drawing on occupational choice theories, girls and women havetended to place a high value on helping others in their work, but do not often realize thatcareers in engineering can lead to these types of endeavors. Adding layers of socialcontext that highlight the connections between engineering endeavors and improving thelives of others may create a more engaging experience for girls and women, andpotentially lead to increased development of girls’ engineering interest and understanding.Additionally, informal learning environments are positioned to become a pivotal role ininspiring today’s youth to pursue careers in STEM. These contexts have already beenshown to be important avenues in which children can develop lifelong interest andunderstanding of broad range of STEM topics. Moreover, informal learning environmentsoften allow for parents and children to work together to foster interest and engagementwithin STEM.Parent-child dyads who were visiting a metropolitan science museum as part of it'sprogram for preschool-aged children were asked to participate in a study that exploresparent-child engineering conversations through a conversation analysis methodology.Dyads consisting of a parent with their daughter (aged 3-5 years) were video-recordedwhile engaged in two different engineering tasks: building a tower out of familiarmaterials and constructing a second tower out of unfamiliar materials. In the preliminaryphase, participants (n = 25) were asked to build a tower with a specified goal, whereasparticipants in the follow-up phase (n = 25) were given the same directions thoughinfused with a social context (i.e. building for someone, for a specified purpose).This paper will examine the differences in the use of context between fathers and motherswithin the preliminary and follow-up phases, including the frequency and type of contextused towards the design of the towers. Four case studies were evaluated to highlight keyfindings such as the addition of context to the preliminary phase and the involvement ofsocial context in the follow-up. It was found that in the preliminary phase that bothparents and the children added context to the task – a finding that resonates with theresearch that girls are more interested in socially relevant activities. When given a moredetailed background, children integrated the given context within design decisions andexplanations even going so far as to expand on the original information.By examining the dyad’s interaction, we hope to identify recommendations we can maketo other parents on how to foster engineering interest in their children, as well ascontribute ideas for activities for K-5 classrooms to reach a wider range of children.

Dorie, B. L., & Cardella, M. E., & Svarovsky, G. N. (2015, June), Engineering Together: Context in Dyadic Talk During an Engineering Task (K-12 Fundamental) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.23986

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