Title

Examining the Literacy Practices of Engineers to Develop a Model of Disciplinary Literacy Instruction for K-12 Engineering (Work in Progress)

Document Type

Article

Journal/Book Title/Conference

ASEE Annual Conference proceedings

Publisher

ASEE

Publication Date

6-1-2018

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 science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, engineering remains a White, male-dominated profession. Often, women and underrepresented students do not identify with STEM careers and many opt out of STEM pathways prior to entering high school or college. In order to broaden participation in engineering, new methods of engaging and retaining those who are traditionally underrepresented in engineering are needed. This work is based on a promising approach for encouraging and supporting diverse participation in engineering: disciplinary literacy instruction (DLI). Generally, teachers use DLI to provide K-12 students with a framework for interpreting, evaluating, and generating discipline-specific texts. This instruction provides students with an understanding of how experts in the discipline read, engage, and generate texts used to solve problems or communicate information. While models of disciplinary literacy have been developed and disseminated in several humanities and science fields, there is a lack of empirical and theoretical research that examines the use of DLI within the engineering domain. It is thought that DLI can be used to foster diverse student interest in engineering from a young age by removing literacy-based barriers that often discourage underrepresented students from entering and pursuing careers in STEM fields. This work-in-progress paper describes a new study underway to develop and disseminate a model of disciplinary literacy in engineering. During this project, researchers will observe, interview, and collect written artifacts from engineers working across four sub-disciplines of engineering: aerospace/mechanical, biological, civil/environmental, and electrical/computer. Data that will be collected include interview transcripts, observation field notes, engineer logs of literacy practices, and photographs of texts that the engineers read and write. Data will be analyzed using constant comparative analytic (CCA) methods. CCA will be used to generate theoretical codes from the data that will form the basis for a model of disciplinary literacy in engineering. As a primary outcome of this research, the engineering DLI model will promote the use of DLI practices within K-12 engineering instruction in order to assist and encourage diverse, underrepresented students to engage in engineering courses of study and pursue STEM careers. Thus far, the research team has begun collecting and analyzing data from two electrical engineers. This work in progress paper will report on preliminary findings, as well as implications for K-12 classroom instruction. For instance, this study has shed insights on how engineers use texts as part of the process of conducting failure analysis, and the research team has begun to conceptualize how these types of texts might be used with K-12 students to help them conduct failure analyses during design testing. Ultimately, this project will result in a list of grade-appropriate texts, evaluative frameworks, and activities (e.g., failure analysis in testing) that K-12 engineering teachers can use to prepare their diverse students to think, act, read, and write like engineers.

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