Set Your Students Up to Be Lead Engineers
How to incorporate this in your classroom.
1. Let your students make the decisions.
Set out a variety of options for tools and materials to choose from, and try to include options that you wouldn't normally choose for that project. Work with students to explore all of the options, and identify how the different tools work.
2. Ask open-ended questions to guide creative problem solving.
When students ask for help, guide them through problem solving with questions like:
- “Why do you think that didn’t work?”
- "What part could we change and try again?”
- “What other material can you try using?”
- "What tool could be helpful here?"
3. Embrace failure as an opportunity for learning.
When students have ideas or solutions that you don’t think will work, give them the freedom and encouragement to go forward with them anyway. If they work, model your excitement about learning something new with your student! If they don’t work, model how to learn from mistakes to improve designs.
When students take the lead, they engage with scientific and engineering practices like those defined in the Next Generation Science Standards.
When students are the lead engineers, they will naturally plan and carry out investigations, evaluate their ideas, analyze and interpret data to test their designs, and come up with solutions.
The Research* Shows
Self-directed experiences build important skills.
When children are the lead engineers, they build executive function skills like self-control and attentional flexibility, which prepare students for academic success.
*The Center for Childhood Creativity's The CREATE Framework: Learning Environments to Develop Creativity describes how educators can build children’s creative problem-solving skills through intentional experiences. View pages 4-5 on child-directed learning for more on this subject.