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Middle School Engineering Teachers' Literacy Instruction (Fundamental)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Communication in Pre-College Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Ashley R. Strong Utah State University

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Ashley Strong is a doctoral student at Utah State University.

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Amy Wilson-Lopez Utah State University

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Amy Wilson-Lopez, an associate professor in the School of Teacher Education and Leadership at Utah State University, studies culturally sustaining engineering pedagogies, including funds of knowledge-based pedagogies, and literacy-infused engineering with linguistically diverse students.

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Literacy instruction, including instruction on how to read and write texts, has been shown to increase student learning outcomes across many academic disciplines, with even greater gains for students who speak English as an additional language. In the context of technology and engineering classrooms, literacy instruction might include comprehension supports for difficult information relevant to the design challenge, as well as writing supports that help students communicate their solutions to stakeholders. Although literacy instruction may lead to positive learning outcomes in engineering, more research is needed on how TE teachers conceptualize and implement literacy instruction as they participate in professional development on literacy instruction, in order to illuminate the factors that encourage or discourage TE teachers from providing literacy instruction. Accordingly, the purpose of this comparative case study was to identify the literacy-related perceptions and practices of two middle school TE teachers, both of whom taught English learners, as they participated in a year-long professional development on literacy-infused engineering instruction. Specifically, the professional development used a coaching model to support teachers in providing comprehension instruction on relevant texts (e.g., bilingual texts introducing the criteria and constraints of the design challenge) as well as providing writing supports (e.g., mentor texts that students could use as exemplars for their own writing). Data for this study included observations and interviews with each teacher, conducted periodically throughout the school year. A constant comparative analysis of this data indicated two distinct sets of perceptions and practices. One teacher viewed literacy as reading and writing, and largely as acts conducted by an individual. This teacher also saw literacy as something distinct from engineering. In accordance with this perception of literacy, this teacher tended to ask students to annotate and write texts individually, and without discussing with others. By contrast, another teacher viewed literacy as meaning-making that was integral to (not distinct from) engineering. This teacher considered literacy to include interpreting and producing multi-representational texts. Accordingly, this teacher focused instead on group discussions of diverse texts, such as different solutions to engineering design challenges. Students in this second class had more opportunities to share complex, multi-faceted design-related ideas. This study indicates that PD in literacy instruction can seek to foster a broader view of literacy--including the discussion of multimodal texts that are integral to (not distinct from) the design process--in order to foster teacher perceptions of literacy that map onto intellectually rich engineering practices.

Strong, A. R., & Wilson-Lopez, A. (2019, June), Middle School Engineering Teachers' Literacy Instruction (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33106

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