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Tools for Teaching and Learning Engineering Practices: Pathways Towards Productive Identity Development in Engineering

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Project Overview 

I-Engineering is designing a framework that looks at powerful narratives, traditions, and histories that determine identities in science or engineering courses at the middle school level and how these narratives can become disrupted, transformed and reformed as students and teachers engage in the engineering design process. We are creating empirically based understandings of how to support identity work of middle school students engineering for sustainable communities across spaces and over time. Our framework and tools support teachers in understanding how students develop this identity work in their classrooms, when designing for community and local concerns. Our project is developing a six week middle school (6-7th grade) Engineering Unit with the following conceptual framing in mind: productive identity work and engineering for sustainable communities .



  1. To develop theory-driven and empirically-based understandings of how to support identity development in engineering among middle school students from underrepresented backgrounds in the context of learning engineering practices.
  2. To develop and refine a framework and tools (I-Engineering) in support of student learning and identity development in engineering. We focus specifically on the engineering practices of defining problems and designing solutions in the context of engineering for sustainable communities (energy focus).
  3. To collaborate with grade 6 and 7 teachers to implement and refine I-Engineering for classroom use.
  4. To study whether the I-Engineering framework/tools support identity development in engineering among middle school students from underrepresented backgrounds:
    1. Whether/how I-Engineering shapes identity development and learning in engineering;
    2. What are the salient features of I-Engineering that can be used by others interested in pipeline concerns; and
    3. Whether/how the I-Engineering framework/tools are portable across contexts (g., moving the framework/tools to broader environments).


The project is currently being carried out at Michigan State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, in collaboration with community organizations and public schools serving predominantly underrepresented populations in Lansing & Jackson, MI and Greensboro, NC.


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