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Exploring the Use of Approximations of Practice in the Context of Elementary Teachers’ Attempts at Implementing Engineering Design-based Science Teaching

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Elementary Engineering

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Brenda M. Capobianco Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Brenda M. Capobianco is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and School of Engineering Education (courtesy) at Purdue University. She holds a B.S. in biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, M.S. in science education from Connecticut Central State University, and Ed.D. from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She teaches elementary science methods and graduate courses in teacher action research and gender and culture in science education. Her research interests include girls’ participation in science and engineering; teacher’s engagement in action research; and science teachers’ integration of the engineering design process to improve science learning.

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Jeffrey D. Radloff Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Jeff Radloff is a graduate student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Purdue University. His research interests include the examination of K-12 teachers' enactment of engineering design.

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The purpose of this comparative case study is to analyze the highly complex practice of implementing instructional activities and classroom organizational structures of five grade four teachers learning to teach science using engineering design. Using the theoretical framework of ambitious teaching, researchers identify core instructional practices that align with national science academic standards and the tenets of engineering design to analyze teachers’ pedagogical actions of leveraging student thinking during design. Data were gathered via formal multi-day classroom observations, semi-structured interviews, teacher reflections, and student work (i.e., design notebook entries, artifacts, and performance on unit assignments). Observation data were analyzed using event mapping of core instructional practices across time within one design task. Data timelines offered a visual comparison of the range of activities over time as well as the approximate length of each. Segments of data for each classroom event map were classified and labeled based on explicit engineering design phases expressed in the teacher’s instruction as well as discrete instructional activities enacted by the teacher. Data from interviews, reflection and student work were analyzed using content analysis. Triangulation of all data sets ensured confirmation of recurring patterns and emerging themes about how elementary school teachers approximate their practices with elements of ambitious engineering design-based pedagogies. Results indicated that teachers’ approximations of practice are tied directly to the content, goals, and implicit nature of the design tasks as well as how teachers specify and explicate the structure and complexity of their teaching practice. Findings from this work serve as a new set of working considerations for uncovering teachers’ struggles and success in taking up ambitious engineering design-based teaching and establishes an agenda for supporting teacher development with reformed-based science teaching.

Capobianco, B. M., & Radloff, J. D. (2018, June), Exploring the Use of Approximations of Practice in the Context of Elementary Teachers’ Attempts at Implementing Engineering Design-based Science Teaching Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30503

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