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Using Engineering Activities to Support Communication and Collaboration Skills in a Special Needs Classroom

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

K-12 and Pre-College Engineering Poster Session

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1.1 - 22.1.7



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Paper Authors


Carol Shields Stevens Institute of Technology

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Carol Shields is a Senior Curriculum and Professional Development Specialist at the Center for Innovation in
Science and Engineering Education, Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken NJ.

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Using Engineering Activities to Support Communication and Collaboration Skills in a Special Needs ClassroomThe purpose of this paper is to provide a description of a program developed by way of anongoing collaboration between a special needs teacher in a culturally diverse urban area and astaff member from an engineering college providing graduate courses, professional development,and in-class mentoring to K-12 teachers in school districts throughout the state.The teacher’s class is a fifth grade consisting of students classified with a variety of behavioraldisorders. All students are of average intelligence.The goal of the program is to determine to what extent utilization of age-appropriate engineeringactivities can foster the collaboration and communication skills that special needs students oftenhave difficulty mastering. Making engineering a core part of the students’ educationalexperience provides a vehicle for practicing oral and written communication skills as well asexperience in collaboration with peers.An additional goal is to address the appropriate state Core Curriculum Content Standards inTechnology and 21st-Century Life and Careers. Information about these standards andindicators will be supplied in the paper.Approach: The students will be led through several introductory engineering activities beforethey are presented with a series of engineering design challenges. All activities will providepractice in using effective oral and written communication and will be completed in teams.A variety of sources will be used, including but not limited to: • Engineering is Elementary (developed by the Boston Museum of Science), containing a set of curricula that integrate engineering and technology concepts and skills with elementary science lessons • Lessons from the TeachEngineering digital library, which provide teacher-tested, standards-based engineering content for K-12 teachers • Lessons developed by the K-12 outreach division of the partner college • Design Squad (PBS) engineering activitiesAssessment: Observations using a rubric and/or checklist will be used to assess students’ oralcommunication and group participation skills. Portfolios containing samples of student workwill be maintained throughout the school year. This work will include drawings and diagrams,as well as written explanations and directions. Written work will be evaluated with a holisticscoring method using a defined set of criteria aligned with the school district language artscurriculum.Note: It is expected the students will improve their understanding and ability to engage in theengineering design process, and that skill will be assessed by an instrument developed by thepartner college. The results of that assessment will not be reported in this paper.

Shields, C. (2011, June), Using Engineering Activities to Support Communication and Collaboration Skills in a Special Needs Classroom Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--17275

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