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Exploring How Design Critique Processes Shape Fifth Graders’ Peer Interaction in Collaborative Engineering Projects

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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

Principles of K-12 Engineering Education and Practice

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.581.1 - 24.581.13



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Paper Authors


Michelle E. Jordan Arizona State University

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Michelle Jordan earned her PhD in Educational Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, focusing her studies on learning, cognition, and motivation with an emphasis on classroom discourse. She joined the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University in 2010. Her interdisciplinary research draws on traditions in qualitative inquiry, sociolinguistics, complexity theories, and the learning sciences. Partnering with teachers and researchers across multiple contexts, Michelle's research agenda explores the relationships among small-group interactions, the experiences they facilitate, and their potential to extend human learning in diverse contexts including K-12 engineering design teams.

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How Public Design Critique Processes Influence Fifth Graders’ Peer Interaction during Collaborative Engineering ProjectsThis qualitative study explores the influence of public design critique processes on fifth gradestudents’ peer interaction during collaborative work sessions. Understanding social processesthrough which young students learn to engage in collaborative engineering design projects iscritical as engineering standards become prevalent in K-12 curriculums (NRC, 2011, 2009).Systematic studies of children’s peer-to-peer interaction during collaborative design activity arerare, and few studies consider the influence of the broader social context on peer collaboration.Furthermore, although design is recognized as an endeavor likely to induce uncertainty (e.g.,Hjalmarson et al., 2007), systematic studies of uncertainty during children’s design are rare(Author, 2013). Finally, design critique processes can provide formative feedback about ongoingdesign projects (Uluoglu, 2000). Yet, little research systematically examines their influence oncollaborative design teams.This study drew on data from a longitudinal investigation of fifth graders engaged in designing,building, and programming robots using LEGO Mindstorms. Analysis focused on peerinteraction prior and subsequent to design critique sessions in which students presented theirengineering projects-in-progress and received formative feedback from their teacher andclassmates. Two focal groups, each comprised of four heterogeneous members, werepurposefully selected. One group (Water Washer Group) received primarily negative critique,while the other group (Trash Grabber Group) received primarily positive critique. The purpose ofthis study is to understand how peer interaction during collaborative engineering design workwas influenced by public design critique processes, particularly by the quality (i.e., positive ornegative) of critique.Data sources include (a) transcripts made from video-audio recordings of whole-class critiquesand work sessions for the two focal groups, (b) transcripts of interviews with focal students.Using discourse analytic and constant comparison methods, analysis, I examined pre and postdesign critique session peer-to-peer talk, specifically group members’ (a) expressions ofuncertainty (e.g., questions, hedges) and peer responses, (b) generation of design ideas (e.g., howmany, who makes them), and sustained substantive discourse (operationalized in terms of lengthof topical threads). Transcripts were also examined for unexpected changes in interactionalpatterns pre and post design critique sessions.Preliminary findings indicate that uncertainty expressions decreased after the Water WasherGroup received negative critique, primarily due to a decrease in students’ focus on social-relational uncertainty as members became more task-focused. Likewise, the number of designideas decreased as members suspended brainstorming in lieu of understanding designspecifications and product function. Sustained substantive discourse increased post-critique. Inthe group receiving positive feedback (Trash Grabber), uncertainty expressions and generation ofdesign ideas remained equally high pre-and-post critique, as did sustained substantive discourse.Both groups made extensive use of suggestions made in design critiques.Outcomes associated with this study will contribute to increased knowledge of how broadersocial interactions influence peer-to-peer discourse in collaborative engineering design projects.The ultimate value of the study is its potential to impact educational thought and action byinforming teaching and learning practices related to public design critique processes associatedwith engineering practices. Implications for research and practice will be shared in the full paper.

Jordan , M. E. (2014, June), Exploring How Design Critique Processes Shape Fifth Graders’ Peer Interaction in Collaborative Engineering Projects Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20472

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