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Teacher And Student Feedback About Engineering Design In Middle School Science Classrooms: A Pilot Study

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering in Middle Schools

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.1139.1 - 13.1139.29



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Paper Authors

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Christine Schnittka University of Virginia

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Larry Richards University of Virginia

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

Teacher and Student Feedback about Engineering Design in Middle School Science Classrooms: A Pilot Study


In this study, middle school teachers and students provide critical feedback about three design- based science teaching kits so that the curricula can be refined and improved such that student learning and engagement in science and engineering is maximized. The curricula, packaged as kits, focus on a well-defined set of concepts in science. All lesson plans include a final design challenge. The middle school students must use the scientific and mathematical knowledge and methods they have learned to design, build, and test a working artifact to achieve a goal. Teachers felt that improvements could be made with each kit to enhance student engagement and learning, and some teachers enacted changes during their course of teaching with the kit. Teachers perceived that all three kits increased students’ engagement and learning in science. Students enjoyed each of the three kits, thought learning with them was fun, and understood the teachers’ learning objectives. Students thought that the best part of the entire unit was the design and construction of the engineered device. The curricula have the ability to help teachers not only teach required science content, but allow students to master standards-based science content in a science reforms-based manner, through inquiry, active, and situated learning.

Introduction: Design-based science

Reform efforts in science education emphasize a shift from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms 1, 2. Students construct an understanding of the natural world in much the same way that scientists do, through active engagement in the process of inquiry. Effective teachers expose their students to a variety of teaching strategies, engaging their students in different ways. The active process of learning involves both mental and physical activities as students work with their teachers and peers 2. When engaged in active learning, students make gains not only in content knowledge, but in process skills and attitudes towards science. When teachers use a curriculum based on active learning, their behaviors also become more student centered, with less focus on worksheets and lectures, and more focus on lab work and inquiry 3. In general, active learning reaches students who possess a wide variety of learning styles, much more so than traditional teaching and learning 4.

In contrast to traditional lecture-style classrooms, active learning takes place when teachers engage students such that that they think about and perform meaningful activities. This can be as simple as pausing several times during a lecture and asking students to clarify their notes with another student. However, thoughtfully designed activities can promote student engagement to a much higher degree, and student engagement is highly correlated with academic success 5.

One type of active learning, problem-based learning, is based on content-specific problems. Problem-based learning (PBL)6 is a teaching and learning method where problems relevant to the curriculum provide the context and motivation for all the activities that follow. PBL started in the mid 1950s in North American health sciences education and emerged as an ethical and practical way to give beginning medical students practice solving problems in simulated cases

Schnittka, C., & Richards, L. (2008, June), Teacher And Student Feedback About Engineering Design In Middle School Science Classrooms: A Pilot Study Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3340

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