Framing engineering practices in elementary school classrooms

Christine M. Cunningham, Gregory J. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


The introduction of engineering in K-12 education in the United States offers new potential and challenges for schools interested in teaching engineering in the elementary grades. This study examines how a teacher frames engineering practices for her students through the teaching of an Engineering is Elementary (EiE) instructional unit. Discourse analysis of conduct was undertaken based on a set of classroom videos and artifacts. The method entails detailed analysis of the talk and actions of classroom members. Codes were developed to characterize the work on framing and engaging in engineering practices. Drawing from the materials provided in the curriculum, the teacher in this classroom used a set of discourse moves (e.g., posing questions, revoicing student responses, giving directions) to frame aerospace engineering as a field that is dedicated to principled uses of data to support design. This was accomplished by modeling ways of collecting data, controlling variables, and treating anomalies. Classroom activities in support of data use included analysis of science concepts and engineering designs, sharing within and across groups for collective decision making, and comparing data to draw inferences for engineering redesign. The teacher in this study was able to provide learning opportunities in this fourthgrade classroom by developing common foci around science concepts and engineering processes, holding students accountable to common standards of quality in engineering work, and encouraging students to develop agency as engineers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-307
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Engineering Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • General Engineering


Dive into the research topics of 'Framing engineering practices in elementary school classrooms'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this