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Celebrating Inquiry: Spring 2016 v.2 no.2

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Teaching our students to "Think like Engineers”….. Melissa Gough

How does the integration of the Engineering Design Process during science instruction enhance student learning?

My inquiry question was developed out of an opportunity I had while in my practicum that allowed me to be part of an Engineering Design Cohort, which brought together over 30 different teachers within the district to try and implement the Engineering Design Process into science instruction. After learning about the Engineering Design Process and how it is catered toward any science instruction, I came up with the inquiry question that I wanted to explore within my classroom. The goal of this project is that students would be more engaged with the Engineering Design Process because of the applications that could be used across the science curriculum, and because of the realistic applications that are embedded within the process.

My method began by inquiring about what students thought about engineering and what it means to be an engineer. From there, we dove right into our own cycle of the Engineering Design Process where we came up with a realistic project for the students (build a structure that would be used in an outdoor space that the school was beginning to design). We separated students into Engineering Teams that they would be seated with for the length of the project. I created Engineering Notebooks for the students where they kept their group’s work separated into each stage of the process. There was also a picture of the Engineering Design Process on the front of their notebooks. As we went through each stage of the process, students had time to reflect on why engineers would use this stage and why it was important. They reflected on their own learning through this stage and how it would help them specifically for their own projects. We also had experts (carpenters, Lowe’s associates, airport personnel, etc.) come into our classroom to give our students tips and pointers, and to talk about the different applications of engineering.

Something that was vital for this inquiry was documentation of student learning, and to make student learning visible. I created a large bulletin board display that had the Engineering Design Process and stages, with a large amount of photos of the students throughout the stages. This allowed for students to track their own learnings throughout the length of the project and they were able to reflect on those photos. At the end of our unit, we had a culminating exhibition during the student-led conferences, where we created posters for the students and they were to present their projects and posters to their parents (ensuring they go through all the stages of the Engineering Design Process).

Melissa is originally from Calgary. She moved to Lethbridge in 2012 to pursue a combined Math and Education degree, anticipating graduation in Spring 2016. She completed PS3 in Chestermere, and is am hoping to get a job abroad once she graduates. She is extremely excited to integrate inquiry based learning into her classroom moving forward!