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Abstract

Engineering design places unique demands on teachers, as students are coming up with new, unanticipated ideas to problems along often unpredictable trajectories. These demands motivate a responsive approach to teaching, in which teachers attend their students’ thinking and flexibly adapt their instructional plans and objectives. A great deal of literature has focused on responsive teaching in science and mathematics, but there has been little research or professional development on this approach in engineering. In this work, we conducted clinical video-based interviews with six elementary teachers experienced in teaching engineering to discuss what they noticed in their students’ thinking and how they responded. Using analytical methods based on the grounded theory approach, we identified four themes in what teachers noticed in their students’ engineering: how students (1) framed (or interpreted) the project, (2) engaged in the engineering design process, (3) exhibited informed designer patterns, and (4) communicated with each other in ways that supported their engineering. Although none of these teachers had a formal background in engineering, we show how these themes connect to disciplinary aspects of engineering design. We also identified challenges that teachers perceived facing when responding to students’ work. By showing teachers’ abilities and challenges for responsive teaching, these findings motivate a research and professional development agenda to support teachers in eliciting, noticing, and responding to their students’ engineering.

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