“Should We Build This?”: Student Reasoning in Intentionally Facilitated Socio-technical Design Talks

In pre-college engineering education contexts, detailed explorations of student discourse and teacher moves have begun to emerge. For example, recent studies have shown how particular teacher questions prompt student reasoning during particular phases of the engineering design process (Capobianco, deLisi, & Radloff, 2018) and how a teacher’s valuing of heterogeneous ideas sets the stage for students to take epistemic agency in engineering (Carlone, Mercier, & Metzger, 2021). However, important questions remain about how to structure asset-based engineering design conversations in K-8 school classrooms. For example, during whole-class discussion, what prompts can teachers use to elicit a diverse set of student ideas about how a design problem should be defined? How can educators attune students to their peers’ differing ideas about why a design prototype failed or succeeded? How can classroom norms for large-group design discussions enable students to take “justice-oriented agency” as they make design decisions (Gunckle & Tolbert, 2018)?

In the “Design Talks” project, funded by the NSF DRK-12 program in the Division of Research on Learning, we seek to explore these questions by enacting and characterizing multiple types of intentionally facilitated, whole-class engineering design conversations in first-grade through sixth-grade classrooms. We are developing case studies of specific types of teacher-supported conversation in which students are asked to consider design decision-making not just as a technical task, but as a complex socio-technical activity with ethical, economic, and political dimensions. Our work foregrounds a perspective of care in students’ engineering discourse and builds on emerging frameworks exploring compassionate design, macroethics and ideology, and critical socio-technical literacy (Learning in Places Collaborative, 2020; McGowan, 2018; Philip et al., 2018; Seshadri et al., 2019). In this paper and its related poster, we summarize our first year of design talk enactments and analysis.

Andrews, C., Wendell, K., Watkins, J., De Lucca, N. & Pangan, T. J., Gor, V., & Woodcock, R. (2022, June 26-29) “Should we build this?”: Student reasoning in intentionally facilitated socio-technical design talks. Poster presented at ASEE 2022, Minneapolis, MN.