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STEM Content in Elementary School Students’ Evidence-based Reasoning Discussions (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

Elementary Students: Computational Thinking, Reasoning, and Troubleshooting

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Emilie A. Siverling Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Emilie A. Siverling is a Ph.D. Candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an M.S.Ed. in Science Education from Purdue University, and she is a former high school chemistry and physics teacher. Her research interests are in K-12 STEM integration, primarily using engineering design to support secondary science curricula and instruction.

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Elizabeth Suazo-Flores

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Elizabeth Suazo-Flores is a post-doctoral research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Purdue University. Dr. Suazo’s central work is on exploring learners’ integration of different types of knowledge when working on tasks. Following Dewey’s (1938) theory of experience and Schwab’s (1969, 1983) conceptualization of curriculum, Dr. Suazo explored the concept of personal practical knowledge (Elbaz, 1981) with an eighth grade mathematics teacher. This construct encapsulates different ways of knowing that teachers refer to when interacting with their students. She has also explored K-12 learners’ experiences working on STEM units and tasks involving real-world contexts. For example, as part of the EngrTEAMS group, Dr. Suazo carried out research related to middle school students’ evidence based reasoning and contributed to design a STEM unit that has heat transfer as the main science topic. Her multicultural experience teaching mathematics in Chile and implementing research in mathematics education in the US has allowed her to contribute to interdisciplinary groups’ work. Currently, Dr. Suazo is exploring biology undergraduate students’ experiences integrating biology, mathematics, and statistics knowledge when making graphs.

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Tamara J. Moore Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D., is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education and Director of STEM Integration in the INSPIRE Institute at Purdue University. Dr. Moore’s research is centered on the integration of STEM concepts in K-12 and postsecondary classrooms in order to help students make connections among the STEM disciplines and achieve deep understanding. Her work focuses on defining STEM integration and investigating its power for student learning. Tamara Moore received an NSF Early CAREER award in 2010 and a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) in 2012.

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One of the goals of STEM integration in pre-college classrooms is that students can make connections within and between the STEM disciplines. Previous research about evidence-based reasoning (EBR) has suggested that this practice might help students make these kinds of connections. We have defined EBR as the practice of justifying engineering design ideas and decisions. EBR is the engineering component of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) practice of engaging in argument from evidence; it is parallel to the science practice of scientific argumentation. The purpose of this study is to explore the types of STEM topics that students brought up when they were practicing EBR. In this project, we are interested in answering the following research question: While generating a solution to an engineering design problem in an engineering design-based STEM integration unit, what STEM content do elementary school students discuss?

We explored audio transcripts of one 5th grade student team while they were participating in a two-week long STEM integration unit. In the unit, Survival Suits, the engineering problem is for students to design a suit that will enable humans to survive in different habitats; students consider each suit design feature based on animal adaptations. In this study, we focused on the portion of the unit when students were participating in the solution generation phase, which included three full class periods of audio transcripts. Because this engineering design challenge did not allow students to actually construct a suit prototype, the conversations analyzed in this study included only planning an initial design and a redesign. In a first level of analysis, instances of EBR were identified in the audio transcripts; a revised version of Toulmin’s Argument Pattern was used to assist identification of EBR. In the second level of analysis, these instances of EBR were analyzed via open coding to determine the STEM content topics students talked about when justifying design ideas and decisions.

Preliminary results show that the students used content knowledge from all four STEM disciplines during instances of EBR. Students referred to science related to animal adaptations, habitats, and properties of materials, as well as mathematics about measurement and data analysis. For technology, they talked about experiences they had with existing real-world technologies. In relation to engineering, the student team discussed several topics during EBR: design, material type, functionality, structure, ease of use, and aesthetics. These results are evidence of students’ ability to integrate content knowledge from STEM disciplines when justifying their design ideas and decisions during an engineering design-based STEM integration unit.

Siverling, E. A., & Suazo-Flores, E., & Moore, T. J. (2018, June), STEM Content in Elementary School Students’ Evidence-based Reasoning Discussions (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30986

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