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Students' Use of Evidence-Based Reasoning in K-12 Engineering: A Case Study


"The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), along with other documents related to K-12 policy and curriculum, have brought increased attention to engineering content and practices in K-12 classrooms. One of the essential scientific and engineering practices in NGSS is engaging in argument from evidence. In the science education research community, this is represented by the practice of scientific argumentation, which relates to making and supporting claims about phenomena. In engineering, this practice instead relates to developing solutions to engineering problems, through which students can use evidence from science and mathematics, as well as criteria and constraints to support their design decisions. This practice of evidence-based reasoning (EBR) was used as the basis of this study. The following questions were used to guide this research: In what steps of the engineering process of design are students using EBR? and For what purposes are students using EBR when participating in engineering process of design within a STEM integration unit?

This research used an exploratory case study design to investigate one middle student teams' use of EBR in the engineering process of design. This team participated in a STEM integration unit with a life science focus. Transcripts of audio recordings of the team's discussions and student worksheets filled out during the engineering lessons were analyzed in three steps. Toulmin's Argument Pattern was used to identify instances of EBR within students' oral and written communication. The Framework for Quality K-12 Engineering Education was then used to determine in which steps of the process of design these instances occurred. Finally, open coding was used to identify the purposes for which students were using EBR in the process of design."

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