Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference


American Society for Engineering Education

Publication Date


Award Number

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


NSF, Division of Engineering Education and Centers (EEC)

First Page


Last Page



Purpose This paper will the describe the overall project goals, activities, preliminary findings, and future work on this project. The purpose of this project is to develop a model of Disciplinary Literacy Instruction (DLI) in engineering that can be used in both K-12 and undergraduate engineering settings. This model of DLI will be informed by knowledge about the ways practicing engineers across four disciplines of engineering (i.e., electrical/computer, mechanical/aerospace, civil/environmental, and chemical/biological) read, interpret, evaluate, and generate texts in the context of their work environment. This information will be translated into a model of DLI in engineering to teach students how to use authentic engineering literacy practices as they learn discipline specific engineering content.

Project Activities During the first year of this project, we conducted on-site observations with two electrical engineers and two mechanical engineers. In addition, we held interviews and conducted think-aloud protocols that were informed by the observations with each engineer. From these data sources, we developed a codebook describing the types of texts that the engineers interpreted, evaluated, and generated at the workplace. worked with both mechanical and electrical engineering consultants to help refine and revise the codes and code definitions to enhance their authenticity to each discipline. To further ensure the quality of our data analysis procedures, we sought feedback on our codes from three advisory board consultants having expertise in disciplinary literacy, engineering, and K-12 engineering education.

During the second year of this project, we analyzed the interview and think-aloud protocol transcripts from the electrical and mechanical engineers to generate themes that described the interpretive and evaluative frameworks the engineers used as they solved a technical problem or generated a solution for a client or customer. Similarly, we developed themes that described the socially situated activities in which the previously defined genres were embedded. Taken together, these frameworks and activities inform the development of the DLI model in engineering. We also began collecting observation, interview, and think aloud data with one civil and one environmental engineer during this year.

Currently, in the third year of this project, we are analyzing the observation field notes and the interview and think-aloud protocol transcripts from the civil and environmental engineers. Simultaneously, we are generating data with the final pair of engineers: one biological and one chemical engineer. We continue to refine our codebook by adding new genres as they appear and merging any similar, existing genres to capture the range of texts with which the engineers engaged. Engineering consultants from both the civil and environmental disciplines will provide feedback on our codes. Combined data from this phase with previous phases will be used develop disciplinary specific curricular materials for K-12 and undergraduate engineering education.

Future Activities The data collected and analyzed throughout the project will inform the development of a model for DLI in engineering that can be used by teachers in both undergraduate and K-12 educational settings. This model will provide a framework for teachers to instruct students on how to use the authentic reading and writing strategies that practicing engineers use while solving problems. By providing a diverse set of students with exposure to these literacy practices in school at a young age, a model of DLI in engineering has the potential to remove literacy-based barriers that may deter students from pursuing engineering pathways.


© 2020 American Society for Engineering Education.



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