Title

Developing a Model of Disciplinary Literacy Instruction for K-12 Engineering Education: Comparing the Literacy Practices of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (Fundamental)

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

ASEE Annual Conference proceedings

Publisher

ASEE

Publication Date

7-1-2019

Award Number

NSF, Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC) 1664228

Funder

NSF, Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

Abstract

Despite efforts to diversify the engineering workforce, the field remains dominated by White, male engineers. Research shows that underrepresented groups, including women and minorities, are less likely to identify and engage with scientific texts and literacy practices. Often, children of minority groups and/or working-class families do not receive the same kinds of exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) knowledge and practices as those from majority groups. Consequently, these children are less likely to engage in school subjects that provide pathways to engineering careers. Therefore, to mitigate the lack of diversity in engineering, new approaches able to broadly support engineering literacy are needed. One promising approach is disciplinary literacy instruction (DLI). DLI is a method for teaching students how advanced practitioners in a given field generate, interpret, and evaluate discipline-specific texts. DLI helps teachers provide access to to high quality, discipline-specific content to all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or socio-economic status, Therefore, DLI has potential to reduce literacy-based barriers that discourage underrepresented students from pursuing engineering careers. While models of DLI have been developed and implemented in history, science, and mathematics, little is known about DLI in engineering. The purpose of this research is to identify the authentic texts, practices, and evaluative frameworks employed by professional engineers to inform a model of DLI in engineering. While critiques of this approach may suggest that a DLI model will reflect the literacy practices of majority engineering groups, (i.e., White male engineers), we argue that a DLI model can directly empower diverse K-16 students to become engineers by instructing them in the normed knowledge and practices of engineering. This paper presents a comparative case study conducted to investigate the literacy practices of electrical and mechanical engineers. We scaffolded our research using situated learning theory and rhetorical genre studies and considered the engineering profession as a community of practice. We generated multiple types of data with four participants (i.e., two electrical and two mechanical engineers). Specifically, we generated qualitative data, including written field notes of engineer observations, interview transcripts, think-aloud protocols, and engineer logs of literacy practices. We used constant comparative analysis (CCA) coding techniques to examine how electrical and mechanical engineers read, wrote, and evaluated texts to identify the frameworks that guide their literacy practices. We then conducted within-group and cross-group constant comparative analyses (CCA) to compare and contrast the literacy practices specific to each sub-discipline Findings suggest that there are two types of engineering literacy practices: those that resonate across both mechanical and electrical engineering disciplines and those that are specific to each discipline. For example, both electrical and mechanical engineers used test procedures to review and assess steps taken to evaluate electrical or mechanical system performance. In contrast, engineers from the two sub-disciplines used different forms of representation when depicting components and arrangements of engineering systems. While practices that are common across sub-disciplines will inform a model of DLI in engineering for K-12 settings, discipline-specific practices can be used to develop and/or improve undergraduate engineering curricula.

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