(309b) Design Challenge Parleys As a Conduit for Growing Student Expert Thinking in the Classroom

Authors: 
Gomez, J., University of New Mexico
Svihla, V., University of New Mexico
Datye, A. K., University of New Mexico
Law, V., University of New Mexico
Bowers, S., University of New Mexico
Increasingly, millennials enter classrooms that make a shift away from the traditional stand-and-deliver style of lectures to one of collaborative learning experiences. There is a rising need for instructors to adapt course content to support students as active learners capable of using the knowledge and skills they bring into the learner-centered educational setting. Instructors often approach student learning from a blank slate instead of building on students’ assets to grow expert thinking, allowing them to adapt in different settings. The Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering (CBE) at the University of New Mexico (UNM), which serves a very diverse population, has begun introducing design challenges as an asset-based approach into core courses. Asset-based approaches nurture the knowledge and prior experience of students to support learning and engagement. The design challenges are aligned to course content, are introduced through a design brief and a challenge video, and completed collaboratively. The design challenges are realistic and client-driven, engaging students in applying course content to solve industry, research, and community problems. The community-inspired challenges in particular provide an opportunity for students to build on their past experiences and knowledge.

In this paper, we present a pedagogical strategy that we developed as a way to support students to learn from one another and come to consensus about key decisions: parley sessions. In our previous work, we showed how they fit within a suite of active learning strategies to support students to make progress on a design challenge. Our purpose in this paper is to illustrate how the structure of parley sessions fostered learning, and particularly how they supported students to build on their past experiences and knowledge. Students completed surveys, providing demographic information and data about their past experiences. We video recorded parley sessions and collected student work on the design challenges. We found that students were able to locate peer-reviewed research and information from reputable sources, and that they fostered this practice in each other: we also observed students making requests from peers to legitimize their work with citations and argue from evidence to support claims. We also found that students from rural communities and lower-socio economic backgrounds were able to leverage assets such as regional knowledge about local industries, site amenities, economics and environmental impact in their design decisions. Overall, students grew in their ability to reason from various pieces of knowledge, including diverse and contradictory points of view. These findings support parley sessions as a pedagogical strategy providing abundant opportunities for students to develop expert thinking in the classroom.

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