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System Scaffolding Of Content Integration In High School Engineering And Design

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Enhancing K-12 STEM Education with Engineering

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1159.1 - 15.1159.10



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Paper Authors


Tom Benton University of Texas, Austin

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Tom Benton received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas in 1999 and is currently a Masters student in the University's Educational Technology program. He is primarily interested in the development and study of systems that support collaboration between designers while scaffolding elements of the design process.

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Taylor Martin Univ of Texas at Austin

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

System Scaffolding of Content Integration in High School Engineering and Design


Here we present results from a study examining the use of technological scaffolding for facilitating content integration in the development of high school engineering instruction. Considering engineering as an integrated discipline – that is, intertwining science and math content knowledge with design and problem-solving strategies – and with recent literature highlighting the value of content integration in existing high school engineering programs, we developed The UTeach Design Challenge Engine, a collaborative, online tool designed to aid in the development of challenge-based engineering instruction. The tool was put into practice in a professional development program for new and continuing engineering educators. Over several weeks, users’ instructional development did appear to take more into account a broader and more realistic selection of content potentially involved in a given classroom design challenge activity.


New legislation now requires Texas high school students to complete four years of math and science to graduate. This change has catalyzed the creation of new science electives designed to meet a variety of academic needs and interests. One fourth-year science elective is engineering. While already offered at some schools, this is overwhelmingly a new opportunity for students as well as teachers; while some of its present and future instructors have degrees and professional backgrounds in engineering, most have qualifications and training most closely related to the math and science courses they teach currently. Just as the job descriptions of engineers and scientists are related but different, engineering in the classroom demands a different style of instruction than may be effective in the science or math classroom. Style of instruction aside, high school science and math courses rest on a foundation of relatively well-defined content; contrast this with Koen’s definition of the engineering method as “the strategy for causing the best change in a poorly understood situation within the available resources”1. Even retreating from this abstract definition and focusing on more familiar territory such as electrical or mechanical engineering does not necessarily illuminate the fundamental engineering content these disciplines share. An extensive National Academies survey on the present state and future of K-12 engineering education identifies several concepts key to engineering as a general discipline, particularly to engineering design as a problem-solving process: systems, modeling, and optimization2. That all three of these are more techniques and heuristics than knowledge-based content areas points towards our framing of engineering as an integrated discipline – that is, intertwining science and math content knowledge with design and problem-solving strategies. Classroom instruction that captures this perspective frequently takes the form of Design Challenges, which bring together science and mathematics content with engineering and design principles under the umbrella of extended, design-focused projects. Unsurprisingly, this approach also demands potentially different and more holistic modes of assessment than may typically be observed in science and math classrooms. While the design challenge format has been discussed at length in the literature3, much of

Benton, T., & Martin, T. (2010, June), System Scaffolding Of Content Integration In High School Engineering And Design Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16862

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