Engineering Outreach Ambassadors: Ambitious Teaching Moves in Support of Elementary Students’ Engineering Progress (Fundamental)
Keywords: Elementary engineering education; Engineering outreach; Ambitious teaching; Teaching moves; Ambitious instruction
Engineering outreach programs have the potential to significantly influence precollege youth; university-led engineering programs reach approximately 600,000 K-12 students each year in the United States. Despite the prevalence of these outreach programs, little is known about the nature of the discursive interactions between outreach ambassadors and participating youths and the ways in which these interactions support youths’ progress in engineering. Understanding the ways in which outreach ambassadors support youth to learn engineering is critical to furthering the effectiveness of these programs and contributes to greater understanding about how to support engineering in K-12 settings. Often, these programs are facilitated by undergraduate and graduate engineering ambassadors who themselves are developing as engineers and educators. In the context of an engineering outreach program for elementary students, this study examines the teaching moves of outreach ambassadors, adds to the understanding of their teaching moves, and offers preliminary conjectures about the impact of these moves on students. This study asks: What kinds of discursive teaching moves do outreach ambassadors enact when interacting with elementary student design teams?
In the focal outreach program, pairs of university students facilitated engineering design challenges in elementary classrooms for one hour each week throughout the school year. We selectively sampled and analyzed four such sessions in four fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms. We used discourse analysis and a lens of ambitious teaching to classify the teaching moves employed during interactions between ambassadors and small groups of students who were engaged in engineering design challenges. We identified a range of moves, including ambitious, inclusive, and conservative teaching moves, across the four sessions. From class to class, we observed variation in distribution of each category of teaching move and we hypothesize that activity design and outreach ambassador orientations toward teaching influence this variation.
Particularly promising for engineering teaching and learning, we observed ambassadors making bids to elicit student ideas, pressing for evidence-based explanations, and revoicing students’ design ideas. These moves are characteristic of ambitious instruction and have the potential to support students to engage in reflective decision-making and to guide students toward productive, more expert engineering design practices. Our analysis suggests that engineering outreach ambassadors notice and respond to students’ ideas, engaging in ambitious teaching practices which can be expected to support elementary students in making progress in engineering design. This analysis of outreach ambassadors’ discursive interactions with elementary student design teams adds to the growing conversation of ambitious instruction in engineering.
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