New Possibilities for Broadening the Impacts of Middle School Engineering through a Partnership between Teachers and Underrepresented Minority Engineering College Students
Many schools include engineering design tasks in the science curriculum as one way to provide opportunities for middle school students to contribute to finding solutions to real-world problems. However, students who attend high needs schools often have few opportunities to make such contributions. This condition exists because sometimes teachers in high needs schools have difficulty creating learning environments where students feel confident enough to engage in the engineering design process. This exploratory project will address this issue by looking at whether pairing middle school teachers with undergraduate engineering students increases teachers' capacity to create this type of learning environment. It will use a collaborative incubator model to examine pair interactions and document when and under what conditions knowledge creation and transfer might take place. The study will address a gap in the literature where few studies have expressly looked at the use of undergraduate engineers from this viewpoint. It will initiate the development of a pathway towards a deeper understanding about how to improve teachers' knowledge and skills such that they can implement these types of activities on their own.
A case study design will capture information about the project through interviews, classroom observations, videos, audio recordings, and think-aloud protocols. Information from these data sources will advance understanding regarding prior experiences, individual beliefs and approaches about facilitating engineering design tasks in high needs schools. Different strategies for analyzing data will be used to establish a baseline for teachers and undergraduate engineering students to maximize potential growth with respect to the design process through pairing of the study subjects. Specifically, discourse analysis will be used to code instances when tacit knowledge of pair members combines to produce scaffolding questions and directions that promote creative problem solving during each stage of the design process. This step will also be used to corroborate verbal profile analysis and select cases that highlight exemplary collaborations between teachers and undergraduate engineering students. It will further help track changes in culture, language, and norms within the pairing over time. Outcomes will include information about whether meaningful transfer of knowledge and skills might occur within teacher-engineering student pairing in contextually rich ways that inform change at the classroom level.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.