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Work in Progress: Engineering Design in Secondary Biology

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

DEED Postcard Session 1

Tagged Division

Design in Engineering Education

Tagged Topic


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Paper Authors


Kathy Lea Malone The Ohio State University

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Kathy L. Malone is a Assistant Professor in Science Education. Her research interests include the incorporation of model-based reasoning, and engineering design in K12 classrooms.

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Anita M. Schuchardt University of Minnesota


Courtney R. Irwin The Ohio State University

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Doctoral student in Teaching and Learning, STEM Education

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Rachel Louis Kajfez The Ohio State University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Rachel Louis Kajfez is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Engineering Education at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Civil Engineering from Ohio State and earned her Ph.D. in Engineering Education from Virginia Tech. Her research interests focus on the intersection between motivation and identity of undergraduate and graduate students, first-year engineering programs, mixed methods research, and innovative approaches to teaching.

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Karen E. Irving The Ohio State University

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Karen E. Irving is an Associate Professor in the School of Teaching and Learning at The Ohio State University. She earned her B.S. and M.S. in Chemistry at Bucknell University and Ph.D. in Science Education at the University of Virginia. Dr. Irving was co-principal investigator on the Connected Classrooms in Promoting Achievement in Mathematics and Science project supported by the Institute of Education Sciences and an NSF funded Track 2: GK-12, Optimization and Institutionalization of the Science Fellows Supporting Teachers (SFST) Program. She is former chair of the Chair of the Columbus Section of The American Chemical Society and is a member of NARST, ASTE, ACS and NSTA. Current projects include being principal investigator on the ENABLE STEM NSF Noyce grant and two ITQ funded Engineering is Elementary projects, as well as work on effective and appropriate use of modeling in middle and secondary school classrooms.

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Creating engineering design challenges is never easy. For seasoned engineers in academia, creating real-world context and content rich problems is difficult. For K-12 teachers, this task is even more challenging given their often limited experience with engineering. However, with initiatives such as the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) that explicitly include engineering design as a topic, it is essential to understand teachers’ ability to create and integrate design challenges into their courses. This Work in Progress paper evaluates engineering design challenges created by secondary biology teachers during a summer modeling based workshop.

During the summer workshop, secondary school teachers assumed the role of students and learned about engineering design by direct instruction in order to create engineering design challenges that were based in the life sciences. Teams of 3-5 teachers representing a variety of schools created the challenges and posted videos of their plans on an online platform (Edthena). Teachers from other teams and the workshop leaders provided feedback on the online platform about how well the proposed engineering design challenge would allow students to engage in engineering design practices. The teachers then revised their plans and uploaded new videos of their work for additional feedback. Both sets of videos were evaluated and scored using the same engineering design challenge rubric that included criteria such as the open-endedness of the problem, use of constraints and criteria, and the potential for iteration in the designs.

The initial results of our work show that teachers often struggle with making their design challenges open-ended as opposed to closed-ended single solution problems. Additionally, they view constraints and criteria as aspects of the educational experience instead of elements of the design problems (i.e., the students do not have access to computers instead of the solution can only use the materials provided). We are in the initial stages of analyzing this data for patterns of improvement. We plan to use the results to develop interventions targeting the engineering practices that teachers find challenging, thereby improving their ability to create engineering design challenges that can be integrated into existing science curricula.

Malone, K. L., & Schuchardt, A. M., & Irwin, C. R., & Kajfez, R. L., & Irving, K. E. (2017, June), Work in Progress: Engineering Design in Secondary Biology Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--29154

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