I have the opportunity to speak with Dr. Courtney Faber’s engineering service-learning course.
In this course, my understanding is that students tackle a design challenge. I was asked to come to class to speak for around 30-minutes around adapting and designing activities for an engineering after school program for elementary-aged students. So, the design challenge is to teach engineering to elementary students about engineering. Cool!
But, I don’t’ have expertise in engineering or elementary education. So, I reached out to a colleague, who equipped me well, and also did a bit of noodling on just a few things that I could and would want to share. This post includes a short description of what I hoped to share.
Teaching and learning are complex and so having a “model” for them can be useful.
One simple model that I learned from Dr. David Stroupe (who used it to guide students’ critiques of video-recordings of teachers) is to think about the a) talk, b) task, and c) tools with respect to teaching and learning.
Here are a few things I’d recommend considering with respect to each of these.
- When leading a discussion with the whole-class or with small groups, consider responding to students’ ideas and thoughts with acknowledgments you heard them, rather than evaluations of how good/accurate what they said was; this can help students to feel comfortable contributing and can position you less as the expert and more as a facilitator of students’ work and ideas
- Pay attention to who contributes to class and consider calling on or highlighting the voices of students who may not immediately feel inclined to contribute (when appropriate); this can be a small step toward helping to create a classroom/learning environment culture where all students feel welcome and able to contribute
- Choosing activities and tasks that students find to be interesting is challenging but important; it can be worth spending time on tasks designed to understand and allow students to explore their interests (before or at least in addition to activities focused on the content or skills you want students to develop)
- Consider adapting tasks, even relatively simple ones, to be more cognitively-demanding and open-ended in terms of the aim of the task
- Simple ideas or frameworks can help to guide students’ work; for example, in a project designed to engage students in developing scientific “models” of phenomena, we used the framework of GAME, or Generality, Audience, Mechanism, and Evidence as a way to guide students to consider these aspects of their scientific models
- With the right task, worksheets can serve as scaffolds for students’ work; consider worksheets that focus on an open-ended task, but provide students’ with resources (such as examples that provide an end-goal) that can serve as tools