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High School Students Modeling Behaviors During Engineering Design

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session Design

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.662.1 - 23.662.16



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Paper Authors


Tanner J Huffman Purdue University

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Tanner Huffman is a research assistant and Ph.D. candidate in the Technology, Leadership and Innovation department at Purdue University. Additionally, he is an engineering and technology instructor at Richland Senior High School (7-12) in Johnstown, Pa. Tanner has experience writing integrated STEM curriculum and delivering professional development workshops on ITEEA’s Engineering by Design program. His research interests include modeling and design in STEM education, as well as STEM teacher professional development.

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Nathan Mentzer Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Nathan Mentzer is an assistant professor in the College of Technology with a joint appointment in the College of Education at Purdue University. Mentzer was a former middle and high school technology educator in Montana prior to pursuing a doctoral degree. He was a National Center for Engineering and Technology Education (NCETE) Fellow at Utah State University while pursuing a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction. After graduation, he completed a one year appointment with the center as a postdoctoral researcher.

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Kurt Henry Becker Utah State University - Engineering Education

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Kurt Becker is a professor in the Department of Engineering Education at Utah State University and the current director for the Center for Engineering Education Research (CEER) which examines innovative and effective engineering education practices as well as classroom technologies that advance learning and teaching in engineering. He is working on several National Science Foundation (NSF) funded projects including a project exploring engineering design knowing and thinking as an innovation in STEM learning. His areas of research include engineering design thinking, adult learning cognition, engineering education professional development and technical training. He has extensive international experience working on technical training and engineering projects funded by the Asian Development Bank, World Bank, and U.S. Department of Labor, USAID. Countries where he has worked include Armenia, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Macedonia, Poland, Romania, and Thailand. He is currently a consultant on a USAID funded project that involves workforce development and enterprise competitiveness. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in the department.

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High School Students Modeling Behaviors During Engineering DesignModeling is an essential practice of engineering design (Brophy, Klein, Portsmore, &Rogers, 2008; Dym, Agogino, Eris, Frey, & Leifer, 2005; Katehi, Pearson, & Feder,2009; Moore & Diefes-Dux, 2004; Moussavi, 1998; Steif & Pantazidou, 2004). Studentsin college engineering programs and expert engineers spend time modeling during designchallenges (Atman et al., 2007). Additionally, high school technology education studentsspend time modeling during design challenges (Becker & Mentzer, 2012). While researchhas indicated that students are spending time modeling, the types of modeling thestudents are performing remains unclear. A significant finding in the National Academiespublication, Engineering in K-12 (2009) stated, “Existing curricula do not fully exploitthe natural connections between engineering and the other three STEM subjects” (p.156). One of these connections, mathematical analysis and modeling, was nearly entirelyabsent from the curricula the committee reviewed (Katehi et al., 2009).Studies have shown that engineering modeling is lacking from common curricula, yetstudents are actively engaging in modeling practices. The purpose of this research is toshed light on the types of modeling students are engaging in. Furthermore, the work aimsto provide evidence about student modeling behaviors and lead to more informeddecisions about how engineering design can be used as a pedagogical strategy in scienceand mathematic instruction.Data collected from an ongoing Discovery Research in K-12 project, Engineering Designas a Innovation in STEM Learning, has uncovered questions about modeling from thepreviously collected data. The sample consists of twenty (20) high school studentsengaging in engineering design challenges. The literature suggests students learndifferently dependent upon gender and ethnicity, among other factors (Hallinan, 1988).Therefore, this research employed a stratified sampling method to randomly selectequally numbers of both the gender of the participants, male and female; and ethnicity,Caucasian and under-represented from a pool of fifty-nine (59) students. The aim is todeduce and discuss the multiple of factors that may lead to a difference among studentmodeling habits.As with any descriptive study, the primary commitment of this study is to depict andclarify what is. In the case of modeling, the depiction is expansive. The scholarship ofmodeling practices in engineering is not novel. Several examples in the literature embodystudies that link modeling to study motivation (Adams, Evangelou, & English, 2011;Diefes-dux, Moore, Zawojewski, Imbrie, & Follman, 2004), meaningful learning(Jonassen & Strobel, 2006), and mathematical achievement (Abrams, 2001; English,2010; Lehrer & Schauble, 2000). None, however, have engaged in meaningful research toprovide clarity on what types of modeling high school engineering students areparticipating in. With that primary emphasis in mind, this research employs descriptivestatistics and qualitative insight to describe the phenomena of modeling in high schoolstudents. The utilization of the qualitative observation and verbal protocol analysissoftware, Nvivo, and methods emulated from Attman (2007) and Becker & Mentzer(2012) allows for the analysis of student modeling in an authentic assessmentenvironment. Furthermore, student examples are provided as exemplars and used as acatalyst for additional discussion.

Huffman, T. J., & Mentzer, N., & Becker, K. H. (2013, June), High School Students Modeling Behaviors During Engineering Design Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19676

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