Understanding youth collaboration: How learners experience the design process in a collaborative context (fundamental)

Michelle Jordan, Tonatiuh Munguia-Villanueva

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Providing young learners a foundation in engineering design practices helps them aspire to address major challenges of the society and environment that they will face in the decades ahead, and to interest them in pursuing higher education in STEM fields. Such a foundation should include collaborative experiences because engineering practices are highly social and communication plays critical roles in design processes.1-5 In particular, communication among team members is a fundamental aspect of engineering design.6,7 Yet, even undergraduate students often fail to recognize the inherently collaborative nature of engineering.8 Preparing the next generation of engineers to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future requires that they learn to engage in analytical thinking, argumentation, and collaborative teamwork and that they see such practices as central to design processes. Engaging middle school learners in collaborative engineering design projects can provide them with opportunities to develop communicative competencies related to speaking like an engineer by participating in talk about designed products, design processes, and metacommunicative talk about design communication itself.9-11 The K-12 engineering education community also recognizes collaborative interaction as a key engineering practice. The National Research Council identified communication as a vital engineering "habit of mind."12 Additionally, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) foregrounds the importance of collaboration in science and engineering practices by integrating communication as a fundamental criterion at all levels of K-12 education: "Engineers need to be able to express their ideas, orally and in writing, with the use of tables, graphs, drawings, or models and by engaging in extended discussions with peers."13 Such communication practices are necessary for generating design solutions and for planning and carrying out collaborative investigations. Previous studies indicate that young learners encounter communication challenges related to task, relational, and identity issues when collaborating on engineering design projects.14,15 Other research has identified effective scaffolding to support middle school leaners' communication during collaborative design activities16,17 as well as between-group influences on design activity.18,19 However, systematic studies of young adolescents' peer interaction among team members during collaborative design activity are rare, and little is yet understood about how learners' perceive of their collaborative interactions. The purpose of this qualitative study was to improve understanding of how middle school learners experience the design process as they engage in collaborative engineering challenges. To achieve this aim, we investigated how participants in afterschool engineering clubs experienced collaborative aspects of design challenges. Initial research questions that guided analysis include: • What do learners report about how they experience collaborative aspects of engineering design challenges? • Which aspects of collaborative design processes are most salient to these learners? • Which aspects do they experience more negatively or positively?.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
PublisherAmerican Society for Engineering Education
StatePublished - 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015


Other2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition
Country/TerritoryUnited States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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