The ways in which teachers talk to their students greatly affects how students conceptualize and approach their learning. In order for students to authentically practice engineering design, teachers must provide their students the freedom to develop and try out their own ideas, but must still maintain support when needed. This study analyzes these competing roles by examining the ways in which teachers talk to teams of middle school students as they work on engineering design projects, addressing the research question: How do middle school teachers use their talk to scaffold students’ design ideas during teacher team interactions throughout engineering design projects? This study used data from the classrooms of six teachers, two teachers each from sixth, seventh, and eighth grade who all taught in the same rural, midwestern school district during their implementation of 3-5 week long engineering design-based STEM integration units. This study focused on interactions between the teacher and teams of three to four students. The data consisted of transcripts of all the interactions between each teacher and two target teams per classroom over the course of the unit. A content analysis was conducted using a coding scheme that was developed around different types of support of design ideas from the teacher. These types were: prompts to elicit student ideas, followup, critique, and directly suggesting ideas. Results indicate that teachers often used their talk as prompts to elicit student ideas to initiate interactions and gather information to formatively assess their students. These examples also provided opportunities for students to practice explaining their ideas. When students struggled with mathematics or science concepts that they needed for their design, the teachers often used followup questions to prompt further thinking and challenge misconceptions that the students held. When students struggled with their design ideas or with implementing their ideas, teacher often directly suggested ideas rather than using the other types of talk to direct their thinking. By directly suggesting ideas, the teachers often took away opportunities for students to learn from their struggle and from the failure of their ideas.
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