In this research paper, a study is presented that investigates preservice elementary teachers’ conceptions of engineering design in relation to the science and engineering practices. We posit that an ability to notice and elicit the meaning of the engineering practices is one way science faculty may help PSTs’ develop a holistic understanding of the practices in line with the NGSS standards. First, we adopt a situative perspective to offer an expanded understanding of the science and engineering practices that draws attention to the relationships between the various ways the practices may be enacted. We outline the theoretical underpinnings of the situative perspective that has led to the generation of a conceptual framework for seeing the practices as they are evoked for particular purposes and informed by particular contexts. Based on this conceptual framework, we explore the conceptions of engineering design from 24 preservice elementary science education teachers who participated in a semi-structured interview as part of a larger, longitudinal preservice teacher education development project at a research intensive, mid-west institution. Using this framework as an analytical tool for qualitative thematic analysis, we present examples that illustrate the meaning of concepts that make up preservice elementary teachers’ situated understanding of engineering design practices. These examples emphasize the kind of understandings that may be observable in preservice teachers. In this way, this research aims to offer a guide for science faculty to notice teaching opportunities. Based on the meaning that PSTs hold as they develop their own understanding of the science and engineering practices, this work aims to provide rich avenues for science faculty to probe, elicit, and explore in their teaching of the science and engineering practices to preservice elementary science teachers.
Richard J. Aleong is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He received his M.A.Sc. and B.Sc.E in Mechanical and Materials Engineering from Queen’s University, Kingston, Canada. His research interests are focused on integrative thinking and design, interdisciplinary collaboration, and educational development to support students’ personal and professional learning and growth.
Robin S. Adams is a Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University, USA. She holds a PhD in Education, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Her research is in three interconnecting areas: cross-disciplinary thinking, acting, and being; design cognition and learning; and translating educational research to practice.
Are you a researcher? Would you like to cite this paper? Visit the ASEE document repository at peer.asee.org for more tools and easy citations.