How students engage in environmental science learning and engineering design across settings
Stromholt, Shelley Ann
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This dissertation uses ethnographic and design-based research approaches to focus on spaces of environmental science and engineering education as potential sites of intentionally designed hybridity and coordination along a cultural learning. By examining how these spaces afford and constrain learning for culturally and linguistically diverse fifth-grade students as they take part in a coordinated set of learning experiences across multiple settings over a school year, this study addresses the kinds of learning and identification processes that occur as youth engage in science and engineering practices. This set of studies focuses on the social and material features of places, the available social positions, and the actions that are related to learning and identification in order to provide empirical evidence of the key features that facilitate access to new forms of participation and identification in relation to science in young peoples’ communities. Chapter 2 focuses on the development and implementation of an ecologically-grounded survey and interview protocol used to examine the different meanings that young people have for science in relation to the social practices in which they engage. This analysis shows that while young people understand science as being primarily associated with school, they also recognize the ways in which a variety of activities across their lives have the potential to be science-related. The findings in this study are important for the design of equitable formal and informal STEM learning environments that draw on young people’s everyday experiences and understandings of science. Chapter 3 describes a cross-setting approach for supporting and investigating student learning of environmental science in a fifth-grade classroom by focusing on the development of hybrid learning spaces in which youth gain access to new forms of participation and identification in relation to science in their community. Key design features of these environments—narratives of science as multi-voiced and an important tool for communities, youth-authored boundary objects that serve community interests, and access to authentic resources—supported new positionings and identities for youth in relation to science and engineering. In Chapter 4, I examined the implementation of a fifth-grade engineering design curriculum unit to understand how engineering design work has the potential to be an agentic context for engaging youth in scientific and engineering practices that position them as producers of knowledge and useful designs. This study shows that equitable engagement in engineering practices requires specific criteria for design proposals and scaffolded social norms that help students negotiate the relational space of small group work for their own goals. As a set of chapters, this dissertation provides deep and broad accounts of science and engineering learning pathways in and out of classrooms, This work informs the ways in which informal, formal, and hybridized learning spaces can create opportunities for new forms of local constitution and engagement in science and engineering practices that support science-linked identity development for all youth.
- Education - Seattle