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Viewing Student Engineering through the Lens of "Engineering Moments": An Interpretive Case Study of 7th Grade Students with Language-based Learning Disabilities

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Diversity in K-12 and Pre-college Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1358.1 - 24.1358.23



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Paper Authors


Jessica M. Scolnic Tufts University Center for Engineering Education and Outreach

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Originally from Wynnewood, PA, Jessica received her B.S. in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Engineering Education from Tufts University in 2013. She is now pursuing her M.S. in M.E. at Tufts, while managing the CEEO's largest engineering outreach effort, the Student Teacher Outreach Mentorship Program.

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Kathleen Spencer Tufts University

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Dr. Spencer is a Research Associate at the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach at Tufts University. Her area of expertise is reading and writing instruction, particularly in the content areas and in project-based learning contexts. Her current research focuses on the effects of text-based engineering units on reading comprehension and oral argumentation. She is particularly interested in how interactive, hand-on learning environments can support literacy development among students with reading disabilities.

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Merredith D. Portsmore Tufts University

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Working Towards Inclusive Engineering Units (research-to-practice,Engineering across K-12 curriculum) According to IBM’s 2010 survey of over 1500 CEOs around the world,successfully “navigating an increasingly complex world” will require creative thinkingmore than any other trait (IBM, 2010). The American Society of Engineering EducationK-12 Center asserts that “engineering is creativity: problem solving and innovationbrings out the best ideas from every student” (ASEE, 2012). Client-centered, open-endedproblems task students and professionals alike with problem scoping, testing, andevaluation. The Next Generation Science Standards have raised the awareness ofengineering and the possibility that it will be included in more classrooms. XXX [nameblinded] is one approach that looks to integrate engineering with existing literacyinstruction. These units create opportunities for students to treat literary characters asclients, and use the story to find and solve engineering problems. Bringing XXX unitsinto classrooms means we need to consider students with different kinds of learningdisabilities, as they make up 5% of classrooms nationwide (NCLD, 2009.) Existingliterature on children with learning disabilities suggests that many such students maystruggle with open-ended challenges (eg: Best, J. R. and Miller, P. H., 2010.) Previous XXX findings indicate that the complex problems presented inchildren’s literature can foster the development of engineering thought and practice in theclassroom (McCormick & Hynes, 2012.) In the presented study, we extend this finding toexplore how seventh grade students with language-based learning disabilities andexecutive functioning challenges engage in an open-ended XXX unit. This qualitativecase study closely follows two groups of students navigating an activity based on thestory The Most Dangerous Game (Connell, 1924). The groups brainstorm problemsfaced by the main character, Sergeant Rainsford, who is attempting to escape from acrazed big game hunter. As the students design and build solutions to help Rainsfordthrough his various challenges, systematic analysis of video data shows studentsengaging in engineering design practices analogous to what we see in groups of studentsnot identifying as having learning disabilities. This analysis examines moments ofproblem scoping, testing, and evaluation to recognize when students are thinking likeengineers, as well as times when they seem to veer off track. Our hope is that byilluminating specific areas where participating students both excelled and needed support,we can better create open-ended engineering challenges for all students.

Scolnic, J. M., & Spencer, K., & Portsmore, M. D. (2014, June), Viewing Student Engineering through the Lens of "Engineering Moments": An Interpretive Case Study of 7th Grade Students with Language-based Learning Disabilities Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23291

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