Learning by Evaluating: Engaging Students in Evaluation as a Pedagogical Strategy to Improve Design Thinking

The Learning by Evaluating (LbE) project will develop, refine, and test an educational innovation in which 9th grade students evaluate sample work as a starting point in engineering design cycles. Students will compare and discuss the quality and fit to context of completed design artifacts. Teachers will collaboratively review and refine the LbE approaches and map the LbE materials into the curriculum.

Full Description: 

The Learning by Evaluating (LbE) project will develop, refine, and test an educational innovation in which 9th grade students evaluate sample work as a starting point in engineering design cycles. Students will compare and discuss the quality and fit to context of completed design artifacts. Teachers will collaboratively review and refine the LbE approaches and map the LbE materials into the curriculum. Prior work suggests this will allow students to improve understanding of the content, context, and ways of thinking for an assigned project; identify strengths and weaknesses of existing approaches; and recognize key features related to work quality before working on an assignment. The project will work directly with DeKalb County School District in Atlanta, Georgia, and connect to an internationally implemented 9th grade course offered through the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association STEM Center. The pedagogical strategies emerging from this project could be embedded in other STEM Center courses offered in K-12 classrooms internationally, or incorporated by individual teachers in a variety of disciplines through the dissemination of freely available instructional resources.

This three-year exploratory project consists of two years of design-based qualitative research, followed by one year of quasi-experimental mixed-methods research to test the hypothesis that LbE will significantly improve student learning. The theoretical foundation of this inquiry is based on Collins, Brown, & Newman’s “cognitive apprenticeship” approach: students learn from models, articulating knowledge, and reflecting on personal experience. The design phase research questions are: What quality of examples should be used in LbE? How related should examples be to the students’ project? What is the teachers’ role in LbE? What timing provides optimal impact for LbE? The quasi-experiment will randomly assign participating teachers’ class sections to an LbE or a comparison condition, and assess three outcome variables: student design thinking mindset, student critical thinking and reasoning, and student performance. The project leadership team combines design education researchers from Purdue, Brigham Young, and the University of Georgia, the director of the International Technology and Engineering Education Association’s STEM Center, and the Career Technical and Agricultural Education Instructional Coordinator for the DeKalb County School District.

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