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Evaluate-and-Redesign Tasks: Using Interviews to Investigate How Elementary Students Iterate (Fundamentals)

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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

Page Count


Page Numbers

26.688.1 - 26.688.14



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Paper Authors


Amber L. M. Kendall Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

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Amber Kendall is a doctoral candidate in Engineering Education at Tufts University, and a graduate research assistant with the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. She graduated from North Carolina State University as a Park Scholar with a BA in Physics, and spent several years teaching physics to high-school freshman. She has been working on professional development and designing elementary engineering curricula using LEGO materials for several years. Her dissertation research explores how elementary students iterate upon design solutions during classroom engineering challenges.

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Analyze-and-Redesign Tasks: Using Interviews to Investigate How Elementary Students Iterate (Fundamentals)Iteration is a goal-directed activity that involves making incremental refinements during thedevelopment of a design solution. A dependence on iteration to optimize solutions, along withconsidering trade-offs and constraints, is one of the distinguishing factors between the process ofengineering design and scientific inquiry. Iteration has been studied extensively at the collegeand expert level, and linked to better problem understanding and design quality. However, therehas not been enough research to inform our ideas of how K-12 students engage in designiteration within engineering challenges. In this paper, I will describe part of a larger study ondesign iteration in elementary students, wherein groups of students (Kindergarten and 3rd-grade)participated in clinical interviews with the task to analyze and redesign solutions to anengineering design challenge. The goal of these interviews was to observe how studentsconsidered multiple variables and constraints in the context of a design solution, and appliedtheir observations to redesigning the solution. The engineering challenge, and the student groups,were drawn from observations of lessons enacted in the students' classrooms. The interviewswere inspired by Crismond's (1997, 2001) investigate-and-redesign tasks. I describe myinterviews as analyze-and-redesign tasks because much of the "investigate" work was completedin the classroom; my modified interviews included questions asking the students to observe twodesign solutions, list their pros and cons, choose the best design solution, and redesign the lessoptimal solution to better meet the challenge requirements. The solutions were generated by theresearcher, in a style comparable to student-generated solutions, to meet one of two designrequirements; for instance, in the Kindergarten bridge-design challenge, one bridge met thelength requirement, but not the load-bearing requirement, while the other vice versa. The lack ofa 'right or wrong' design allowed my investigation to focus on the students' thinking duringanalysis and redesign, rather than their correctness. After the interviews were transcribed, I usedopen coding to identify several major themes regarding the students' analysis of the solutions,and their group dynamics during the process. In general, the students were very good atidentifying the properties of the solutions, however they were not always successful in predictingthe solutions' success based on those properties. Most of the students had strong opinions abouttheir analysis, but only some of the groups worked to resolve conflicting opinions andaccommodate everyone's ideas into the final design. Additionally, this task differs from thedesign work undertaken by students in their classrooms in several ways. Most significantly, asthe solutions were not generated by the students themselves, the students were able to analyzetheir properties and choose the best solution, but had a much more difficult time actuallymodifying the designs in order to improve them. These results are exemplified in the form ofvideo clips and student artifacts from the interviews. Developing a better understanding of howelementary students analyze and redesign solutions allows us to better inform the practice ofdesigning appropriate challenges that will encourage iteration and optimization.Crismond, D. (1997). Investigate-and-redesign tasks as a context for learning and doing science and technology: A study of naive, novice and expert high school and adult designers doing product comparisons and redesign tasks. (Ed.D.), Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.Crismond, D. (2001). Learning and using science ideas when doing investigate-and-redesign tasks: A study of naive, novice, and expert designers doing constrainted and scaffolded design work. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(7), 791-820.

Kendall, A. L. M. (2015, June), Evaluate-and-Redesign Tasks: Using Interviews to Investigate How Elementary Students Iterate (Fundamentals) Paper presented at 2015 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Seattle, Washington. 10.18260/p.24025

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