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Students' Use of Evidence-Based Reasoning in K-12 Engineering: A Case Study (Fundamental)

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Fundemental and Evaluation: Embedded Programs in Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Corey A. Mathis Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Corey Mathis is a Ph.D. candidate in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. in biology and her M.E.D. in secondary education from Northern Arizona University and is a former high school science and technology teacher. Her research interest includes improving students learning of science and engineering through integrated STEM curricula.

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Emilie A. Siverling Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Emilie A. Siverling is a Ph.D. Student in Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received a B.S. in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 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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Aran W. Glancy University of Minnesota, Twin Cities

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Aran Glancy is a Ph.D candidate in STEM education with an emphasis in Mathematics Education at the University of Minnesota. He has experience teaching both high school physics and mathematics, and his research focuses on supporting mathematics learning, specifically in the domains of data analysis and measurement, through STEM integration and engineering. He is also interested in mathematical modeling.

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Siddika Selcen Guzey Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Guzey is an assistant professor of science education at Purdue University. Her research and teaching focus on integrated STEM Education.

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

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Tamara J. Moore, Ph.D., is an Associate 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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The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), along with other documents related to K-12 policy and curriculum, have brought increased attention to engineering content and practices in K-12 classrooms. One of the essential scientific and engineering practices in NGSS is engaging in argument from evidence. In the science education research community, this is represented by the practice of scientific argumentation, which relates to making and supporting claims about phenomena. In engineering, this practice instead relates to developing solutions to engineering problems, through which students can use evidence from science and mathematics, as well as criteria and constraints to support their design decisions. This practice of evidence-based reasoning (EBR) was used as the basis of this study. The following questions were used to guide this research: In what steps of the engineering process of design are students using EBR? and For what purposes are students using EBR when participating in engineering process of design within a STEM integration unit?

This research used an exploratory case study design to investigate one middle student teams’ use of EBR in the engineering process of design. This team participated in a STEM integration unit with a life science focus. Transcripts of audio recordings of the team’s discussions and student worksheets filled out during the engineering lessons were analyzed in three steps. Toulmin’s Argument Pattern was used to identify instances of EBR within students’ oral and written communication. The Framework for Quality K-12 Engineering Education was then used to determine in which steps of the process of design these instances occurred. Finally, open coding was used to identify the purposes for which students were using EBR in the process of design.

The findings show that patterns emerged with regards to how the team used EBR within the process of design. EBR was found in all stages of the engineering process of design that were analyzed in this study (i.e., plan, implement, test, evaluate, communicate), but it was most prevalent in the initial design-planning and redesign-evaluation steps. The student team used EBR for four main purposes during the engineering lessons: brainstorming design ideas, negotiating prototype design, clarifying ideas with other team members, and explaining answers to questions that were presented by their teacher. During these instances, students used their science and mathematics knowledge, as well as information about the engineering problem, as evidence to support their reasoning about their design decisions. This shows that not only did three of the four students naturally use EBR during engineering design, but also that it can be used by students to integrate concepts and practices from engineering, science, and mathematics.

Keywords: STEM integration, evidence-based reasoning, argumentation, case study

Mathis, C. A., & Siverling, E. A., & Glancy, A. W., & Guzey, S. S., & Moore, T. J. (2016, June), Students' Use of Evidence-Based Reasoning in K-12 Engineering: A Case Study (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25943

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