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Individual- and group-level effects on learning during engineering design tasks in high school biology (Fundamental).

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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

PCEE Biomedical Engineering

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Martina Nieswandt University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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Martina Nieswandt is an Associate Professor of Science Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on the relationship between motivation, affects and learning associated with K-16 science concepts and various instructional contexts (e.g., small groups, project-based learning) utilizing mixed-methods approaches.

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Elizabeth McEneaney University of Massachusetts, Amherst

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Dr. McEneaney is Associate Professor in the Department of Teacher Education and Curriculum Studies at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst. She is a former high school mathematics and science teacher, and earned a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford University. An associate editor for the Journal of Curriculum Studies, she has research interests in equity and access to STEM Education, and the influence of globalization on STEM curricula.

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Individual- and group-level effects on learning during engineering design tasks in high school biology (Fundamental).

Small group work in secondary science is quite widespread; yet, little is known about how the set of personal resources (e.g., prior content knowledge, social competencies or interest in the topic) that group members bring to the group influence subsequent group functioning and learning outcomes. Viewing quality functioning as the successful co-construction of a “triple problem solving space” (cognitive, social and affective), this paper draws on data from 185 U.S. high school biology students in 52 small groups (3 to 4 students per group) working on three engineering design tasks. Data were collected through questionnaires addressing all three dimensions of the triple problem solving space and video-taped small group interactions of a subset of groups (n=18) during all their engineering design tasks. Results show that one’s own affective and interactional resources, such as interest and interpersonal competence, are related to how one perceives the group’s cognitive, social and affective functioning. Results also suggest that the resources that other group members bring, especially interest, can impact in a more limited way one’s perception of the functioning of the group. Furthermore, the more in-depth analysis of the videotaped interactions of the subset of small groups shows activity-specific links between expressed emotions (excitement, disgust) and triggers of interest (novelty, personal relevance) of an individual group member and of the group as a whole. Expression of negative emotions did not lead to lack of interest; rather, they were associated with observing instead of being actively involved, in a hands-on manner, in the design cycle. Neither collectively maintained interest nor high social or cognitive individual resources guided the progress on content development. This raises the question of the right balance between all three dimensions of the triple problem solving space and how to best support groups who are “low” in some of these individual resources, high in others or low across all three.

Nieswandt, M., & McEneaney, E. (2018, June), Individual- and group-level effects on learning during engineering design tasks in high school biology (Fundamental). Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30654

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