Understanding Design, Tolerating Ambiguity, and Developing Middle School Design-based Lessons
2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access Proceedings
is Professor of Learning Sciences and Human Development and founding director of the Program Evaluation and Research Center at West Virginia University. He pursues a diverse research agenda including areas of interest in (a) the development of mathematical and scientific knowledge across the lifespan, (b) online delivery methods and pedagogical approaches to university instruction, and (c) research methodology, program evaluation, and data analysis (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed
... and mixed methodological) for studies in developmental, educational, and counseling contexts. Abstract We have, over three years, developed a set of practices that helped move middle school mathematics, science, and special education teachers away from trepidation with engineering design and toward comfort with ambiguity, confronting and reducing content knowledge gaps for themselves and their students, and engaging a professional support network. Teachers need deep understanding of the mathematics and science they will teach and knowledge of how students develop understanding of content, how to set significant learning goals, how to select and implement appropriate instructional tasks, and how to assess learning. Common Core middle grades standards include the design process in the science framework, but the design process is not easy to learn and then integrate into broader pedagogical content knowledge teachers must deploy to be successful. Teacher preparation and scaffolding are key to implementation of design based learning to support student learning gains. Well-designed professional development experiences are integral to developing such knowledge and skills. Teachers Engaged in STEM and Literacy (Project TESAL) supported middle school teachers utilizing design based learning with the ultimate goal of increasing student achievement and engagement in STEM disciplines. We focus here on how Project TESAL participating teachers shifted their stance toward ambiguity, developed comfort with the design process for integrating mathematics and science instruction, and how their lesson plans and focus group interviews revealed such change over time. We discuss findings from analyses of data across three years from content knowledge tests (Diagnostic Mathematics Assessments for Middle School Teachers [DTAMS]), surveys (Teacher Efficacy and Attitudes Toward STEM [T-STEM], individual interviews and focus groups, teacher generated design lesson plans, and observations as participating teachers implemented lessons in their classrooms. Teachers who participated all three years discussed the integration of engineering design, complex instruction and group worthy tasks, productive struggle, mathematics-science integration, mathematical modeling, and literacy foci as fitting together in a seamless whole that allowed instruction guided by this perspective to naturally incorporate these effective practices. Connected to this was the challenge of acquiring and implementing that complex perspective.