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ERIC Number: ED528030
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 365
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 0
ISBN: ISBN-978-1-1245-3888-4
Science through Engineering in Elementary School: Comparing Three Enactments of an Engineering-Design-Based Curriculum on the Science of Sound
Wendell, Kristen Bethke
ProQuest LLC, Ph.D. Dissertation, Tufts University
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 engineering-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. [The dissertation citations contained here are published with the permission of ProQuest LLC. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Copies of dissertations may be obtained by Telephone (800) 1-800-521-0600. Web page:]
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Publication Type: Dissertations/Theses - Doctoral Dissertations
Education Level: Elementary Education; Grade 3; Grade 4
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A