Science through Engineering in Elementary School: Comparing Three Enactments of an Engineering-Design-Based Curriculum on the Science of Sound.
Abstract: This research illustrates how varying enactments of an
engineering-design-based science curriculum shaped the development of students'
domain-specific scientific ideas and practices. In this comparative case study rooted in
the analytical perspectives of activity theory and learning environments, student and
teacher participants in three elementary-school classrooms enacted the
engi... read moreneering-design-based science curriculum Design a Musical Instrument: The Science of
Sound. From each classroom's curriculum enactment, multiple sources of evidence were
collected, including written work, design constructions, teacher artifacts, lesson video
recordings, and interviews with selected students. Coding and constant comparative analysis
of these data were used to characterize the learning outcomes and learning environment in
each classroom. Cross-case analyses were then conducted to compare the distinct types of
changes in students' ideas and practices related to the science of sound and the distinct
ways in which teachers and students enacted the curriculum. Analysis of pre/post student
interviews revealed that overall, the students' ideas about sound shifted significantly
toward reasoning about the causal mechanisms underlying sound production, sound
transmission, and pitch. Additionally, the students improved at the scientific inquiry
practices of controlling variables, making observations explicit, and reporting empirical
regularities. They also exhibited the engineering practices of design functionality, design
parsimony, and design explanation. Despite these achievements of the overall group, across
the three classrooms there were significant differences in student achievement in
reasoning, inquiry, and design. Via cross-case analyses of the three science learning
environments, 11 patterns of interaction were identified as being related to more positive
student outcomes. These patterns of interaction were observed more often in the two
classrooms with greater student achievement than they were observed in the third classroom.
These interaction patterns served four purposes that supported student reasoning: (a)
extended discourse by individual students about scientific ideas, (b) scaffolded
inscription of those ideas, (c) assistance meeting design requirements, and (d)
specification of intellectual and social roles for students. Overall, the findings of this
study suggest that third- and fourth-grade students can successfully engage in engineering
design while at the same time making gains in reasoning about scientific mechanisms and
conducting scientific inquiry. However, these student outcomes may be related to particular
patterns of curriculum enactment.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Tufts University, 2011.
Submitted to the Dept. of Education.
Advisor: Hee-Sun Lee.
Committee: Barbara Brizuela, Janet Kolodner, and Chris Rogers.
Keywords: Science Education, Elementary Education, and Instructional Design.read less