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  1. Dorothy Bennett
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/dorothy-bennett-29a84341/
  3. Director of Creative Pedagogy
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. New York Hall of Science
  1. Lauren Cage
  2. Content Developer
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. The Tech Interactive
  1. Susan Letourneau
  2. https://www.linkedin.com/in/susan-letourneau-804a029/
  3. Senior Research Associate
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. New York Hall of Science
  1. Mindy Porter
  2. http://www.linkedin.com/in/mindy-porter-a6217a150
  3. Director of Education
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Scott Family Amazeum
Facilitators’
Choice
Presenters’
Choice

Understanding How Narrative Elements Can Shape Girls' Engagement in Museum-Ba...

NSF Awards: 1712803

2022 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8, Informal

This video will describe findings from a design-based research project that brought together activity developers, researchers, and educators at the New York Hall of Science, Scott Family Amazeum, Tech Interactive, and Creativity Labs at UC Irvine. The project team iteratively developed strategies for reframing engineering activities by adding narrative elements (like characters, settings, and problems) to evoke empathy and support girls’ engagement in engineering design practices. By developing and testing six narrative-based activities and comparing them with non-narrative versions, the project found that when narratives evoked empathy, girls used more engineering practices and engaged longer with the activities.

In this video, members of the project team will summarize the motivation and goals of the project, key research findings about the role of narrative and empathy in supporting engineering practices, and offer examples of how narrative elements can be layered onto engineering activities in low-cost but high-impact ways. Photos and videos of the activities will highlight key design principles in action.

We will also share information about our full practitioner guide, which includes an overview of the theoretical basis for the project, our process for developing narrative-based engineering activities, the design principles that emerged from our research, tools and tips for observing empathy and engineering practices in informal settings, facilitation strategies, and descriptions of the six narrative-based engineering activities that we developed.

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Discussion from the 2022 STEM For All Video Showcase (54 posts)
  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 9, 2022 | 05:02 p.m.
    Thank you for watching our video! We are hoping to get some critical feedback about our project, we have two questions to start the discussion:
    • What aspects of our project resonated most with you — the focus on narratives in STEM, the integration of empathy into engineering education, the focus on increasing girls' engagement with engineering, or something else? Why? What connections were you making with your own work or others'?
    • What other opportunities are there to use empathy and narratives to create more inclusive STEM learning experiences? What questions remain about how to use this approach successfully with different audiences?
    For access to our articles and our Practitioner's Guide from this study, just go to this link:  Narrative Elements Shaping Engineering Engagement Resources and go to Resources at the bottom of the page.

     

  • Icon for: Lara Hebert

    Lara Hebert

    Asst. Director of Outreach & Public Engagement
    May 11, 2022 | 06:29 a.m.

    Hi Dorothy and team. I love the relevance you've added to the design process by introducing challenges through narrative prompts that draw the young designers toward their own unique solutions. I am thinking about what this might look like in  environments for older students and for adults. The relevance of narrative would have power here as well. I think that engaging high school teachers in the process of designing design challenges that include relevant prompts as a catalyst would be a great professional learning exercise. Thanks so much for sharing your work!

     
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    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 11, 2022 | 09:20 a.m.

    Lara- Glad you found this useful!  I definitely think that these design principles also work with older students working on classic design challenges and I have seen that these subtle changes go along way even more so with high school students.  Key thing is not to overprescribe the narrative, allow for personal choice, while at the same time keep the engineering learning goals you have front of mind.

    One technique that might be particularly useful for older students is adding a range of user profiles (make sure not one) for the design challenge as we did in our Help Grandma Challenge, which challenged learners to design a device that would help  grandmothers with different problems they encounter in daily living. The engineering children got to do was supported by the materials provided (things that can be used to model simple machines).  In high school, they can also create their own user profiles by doing interviews with intended users.  These design principles are briefly discussed in our Connected Learning article and are also in our free guide.  We are eager to hear from others who are working with students across the ages how they are attempting to integrate narratives and empathy into their STEM programs or activities, so please do share what you are up to!

     
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    Allison Gonzalez
    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Andee Rubin

    Andee Rubin

    Facilitator
    Senior Scientist
    May 10, 2022 | 08:37 a.m.

    Good morning to some of my favorite museum-based researchers.  To answer your first question, Dorothy, the part of the project that resonated most with me is its theoretical framing, which allows it to both substantially improve specific activities and provide more general guidance for the field in making many other activities more engaging, especially for girls.  Just the idea of 'adding narrative" can provide new inspiration and a new lens to museum experience designers - and educators in other settings as well.  Many years ago when I did some research on Zoombinis, a logic-based educational game developed at TERC, I found that girls approached the game from a more character- and narrative-based perspective, often creating their band of Zoombinis as a "family" and expressing genuine concern about the Zoombinis' fates.  So there is something deep and general about your insights and the work you have done to add data and nuance to that insight.

    My questions for you are: do these narrative modifications have any impact across gender lines?  Do boys ignore the narrative suggestions - or (hopefully not) find them off-putting?  Do you have any input from parents that indicate that they saw a difference in their daughter's engagement?  And how do we think of "gender" in the current environment in which some young people find "non-binary" to be a comfortable and welcome designation.

     
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    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 10, 2022 | 01:00 p.m.

    Hi Andee! Thanks for these really thoughtful questions. I'm really excited to see that more researchers are being critical about how we're operationalizing gender and examining the impact of our approaches for learners of all genders.

    Just as some additional context, we focused on girls in this project because of the extensive prior research on the underrepresentation of people who identify as girls and women engineering, but our approach was very much grounded in universal design — we assumed that if we designed learning experiences to support one group of learners that has historically been excluded from engineering, it would ultimately benefit all learners by providing more ways in for everyone.

    So, in thinking about gender as a spectrum rather than a binary, we would hope that this approach would support learners of any gender who don't connect with traditional engineering approaches and are more interested in solving socially relevant problems. Anecdotally, we didn't notice boys ignoring the narratives or finding them off-putting, although we'd want to confirm these observations in another study that looks at gender in more depth and in a more fluid way.

    I'd love to hear how others are thinking about gender in their work!

     
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    Jackelyn Lopez Roshwalb
    Christina Baze
    Tabatha Rainwater
  • Icon for: Amy Alznauer

    Amy Alznauer

    Facilitator
    Lecturer
    May 10, 2022 | 10:19 a.m.

    Good morning everyone!

    As someone who is both a children’s book author and a university mathematics instructor, I find this project absolutely fascinating. The video was beautifully produced, too. I have a couple questions for you, but first I want to respond to your questions, Dorothy. I was primarily struck by how the incorporation of narrative elements transformed engagement. Seeing the children using different terrains, incorporating hard hats, etc., made it so clear how that element of role playing, of seeing themselves within the story of their projects, rather as external and more distant creators, was not only essential to but transformed the experience. I also just love that these elements aren’t fancy or high cost, but just little things that allow children to enter the narrative imaginatively. And it is precisely those elements that unlock the potential of the larger project, getting their creative minds to turn on and begin exploring and asking questions.

     My first question is about your mention of empathy. I can imagine how empathy might play a key role, but I would love to hear more from you about how you came to see empathy as the central emotion or state being evoked by narrative elements and as the goal of your work. You also mention the importance of imagining “who to help” and “what problems to solve.” This seems connected again to empathy but I’d love to hear more.

     And second, you mention both comparing the same activity with and without narrative elements and then also interviewing 200 girls. Were these two separate ways to measure the impact of this project or were you combining these findings? I’d love to hear a bit more about both of these methods of assessment.

    And I love your questions about gender, Andee. Very much looking forward to this discussion!

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 10, 2022 | 12:20 p.m.

    Amy, Thanks for the great questions.  Our focus on empathy grew out of several strands of work:

    1) the work in engineering education out of Stanford's d.school and other places that emphasize the importance of empathy in the design process as a vital skill, particularly for problem scoping and ideation of solutions;

    2) the work colleagues and I have been doing over the years investigating how to create inclusive invitations into engineering that emphasize the social relevance or humanistic sides of the problems one solves, and 

    3) the experiences that our colleagues and I have had at NYSCI with early prototyping in our Design Lab engineering spaces where we seemed to see more perspective taking, affective reactions, and attention to detail when subtle changes were made to suggest a context or person they were designing for. 

    From the practice side, we suspected empathy was the missing piece of the puzzle that we needed to be looking at as indicator of when an activity was successful.  It wasn't just that you added narrative window dressing to invite learners into the activity or to make the activity more enticing, but we were interested in looking at whether a hint of narrative would offer a chance for learners to imagine design options differently by considering what a person would need in a given situation, how it would make the end users feel, or how you looked at consequences of your design (like keeping someone safe from falling out of their all terrain vehicle). 

    An inspiration from our early years prototyping grew out of our transformation of a pneumatics design activity that focused on creating a cup lifter for someone with limited mobility to a problem centered on creating an air powered people mover involving little flexible, cardstock figures that you can incorporate into your design to show how it works.  Not only did we see far more divergent solutions with the people mover prompt and added characters (we saw circus performers being ejected from cannons to wake up beds that used air to lift people out of bed) but the engineering was better. There was a far deeper exploration of the pneumatic materials available to achieve their defined goals.  This encouraged us to do a more systematic investigation of what was at work when we added these narrative elements and whether that contributed to learners being more invested in solving the problem and considering needs and constraints of the person or context they were designing for.  

    Finally in terms of comparisons in our study: Suzy covered this in her post!

     
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    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 10, 2022 | 12:58 p.m.

    Hi Amy! I’m so glad the project resonated with your experiences as an author and educator. To answer your first question, we were inspired by recent studies that describe the importance of empathy as a necessary skill for engineers to develop (and Joachim Walther’s work in particular). The idea is that engineers need to consider the needs and perspectives of the people they are trying to help with their designs, and that they can cultivate this kind of human-centered approach with practice. Often, professional engineers will use narratives to try to empathize with their clients in this way (through client interviews, use case scenarios, etc).

    When we dug into this research, it aligned really well with the strategies that NYSCI had already been experimenting with prior to this project (using narratives to provide a meaningful context or a reason why you might want to solve an engineering challenge — Dorothy provided some examples of these strategies up above), but it also suggested that empathy might be the key factor because it can also support the kinds of thinking that engineers need to do in their work.

    On a more theoretical side, Bruner’s seminal work on narratives as a way of making sense of the world is also super relevant. He describes how narratives prompt people to imagine others’ perspectives and intentions, and fill in details from their own imaginations and prior experiences. We’ve thought a lot about both aspects of narrative in this project, in terms of both fostering empathy for others and allowing some freedom for learners to make the narratives their own.

    In response to your second question: We observed and conducted interviews with girls after they used either the narrative or the non-narrative versions of our activities, so half of our participants tried the activity with the narrative framing, and the other half tried the activity without the narrative. Then we compared the two conditions in terms of the engineering practices that participants used, and their descriptions of the problems they were trying to solve and the changes they made to their designs.

     
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    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: jennifer Knudsen

    jennifer Knudsen

    Researcher
    May 10, 2022 | 10:50 a.m.

    Great viideo! The focus on narrative is of interest to me. Design thinking models also include developing empathy for the users of the designed object. I wondered if you looked at those frameworks and how they influenced you. 

     
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    Mindy Porter
  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 10, 2022 | 12:27 p.m.

    Jennifer- We did use these frameworks very early on in our creation of our Design Lab engineering exhibit where this study began and it's importance in Jo Walther's work (who was an advisor to this project).  Early on we particularly looked at the work of Shelly Goldman at the d.school as I mentioned in my long post above.  Sorry Amy for the long post!

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 10, 2022 | 11:28 a.m.

    Andee,  thanks so much for watching and for the great questions you always ask. As Suzy said, the study we did was just looking at young people who identified as girls in our spaces because of the large and long history of them being historically excluded.  And I agree with Suzy, what we saw is that many of the design principles that evolved for adding narrative seemed universally appealing.  The key was not to overprescribe the narrative framing but to leave room for all kids to expand on it or not. Issues of what parents thought about the activities is something that I think would make for a very interesting next avenue of research.  We have less information on that although Suzy or colleagues might have things to add about that in their observations. 

  • Icon for: Amy Alznauer

    Amy Alznauer

    Facilitator
    Lecturer
    May 10, 2022 | 01:49 p.m.

    Thank you Dorothy and Susan for these wonderful responses. I am particularly grateful for the clarity and jargon-free nature of the language you use. You both beautifully emphasize that these narrative elements are not a superficial aspect of the design (flashy things saying "Come here, play with me!") but rather integral to the actual efficacy and depth of the participants' engagement and willingness to explore problems. 

    This statement from Dorothy nails it: "We were interested in looking at whether a hint of narrative would offer a chance for learners to imagine design options differently by considering what a person would need in a given situation, how it would make the end users feel, or how you looked at consequences of your design (like keeping someone safe from falling out of their all terrain vehicle)."

    And then Susan powerfully connects this to empathy here: "[Bruner] describes how narratives prompt people to imagine others’ perspectives and intentions, and fill in details from their own imaginations and prior experiences. We’ve thought a lot about both aspects of narrative in this project, in terms of both fostering empathy for others and allowing some freedom for learners to make the narratives their own."

    This strikes me as really central - the ability for these same elements to go both ways, to take the students imaginatively into others' potential struggles and experiences but also to give the students deeper access to their own experiences.

    A follow-up question: I'm curious how you settled on given elements of your designs? Was there some trial and error period? Did some elements end up getting discarded? As you say, they had to be chosen carefully so that these little hints, as you put it, would have big imaginative possibility central to the task at hand.

     

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 10, 2022 | 02:21 p.m.

    That is an excellent question! Our integration of narrative elements into activities was an interative process of activity development, observation and revision-- a long and careful but interesting process! We started with classic engineering challenges that we and our fellow colleagues at the Tech and the Amazeum were already doing as drop-in engineering activities in our museum spaces.  We then layered in narrative elements in the form of characters, settings, or problem frames as the video suggested.  Sometimes this was through visual backdrops as in our air powered vehicles or other materials that enhanced the narrative. 

    We definitely discarded some ideas that informed modifications that we made through this design-based research process, always looking for evidence of children's engineering practices, level of engagement, and expressions of empathy. One such example was a classic museum-based activity that invites children to build large scale structures with dowels and rubberbands.  In our first round of testing, we asked children to design a structure to protect their group from a hurricane. Facilitators bolstered the narrative by wearing raincoats and umbrellas and we offered sheets of mylar to cover their structures, and included a large fan that oscillated past their structures, creating a sense of urgency.  We learned quickly through observation that while these elements supported an evocative narrative, the core engineering goal of building a stable and protective structure was lost and as a result we started to see few divergent solutions.  Too many simple tent structures populated the space because the material and framing suggested that this was the main problem to solve- protect oneself from the wind.  This led to a change in problem frame focused on designing a structure to protect one's group from an earthquake, with the addition of hard hats for the engineers. 

    Our careful documentation of the empathy and engineering practices that we saw allowed us to tease out that fine balance between engineering goals and empathy with the situation at hand.  Many of the design principles are highlighted in the guide, including this case.

     
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    Mindy Porter
    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: Amy Alznauer

    Amy Alznauer

    Facilitator
    Lecturer
    May 10, 2022 | 03:00 p.m.

    Dorothy - what a fantastic and concrete response!  I can see why you and Susan are working on this project - because you are both beautiful communicators who have a sense of the power of narrative to transform engagement and understanding. You modeled this again here in your response.

    Often stories, once they are written, seem simple, obvious even. Many people think, "Oh I could have written that." But if the story is a good one that simplicity is deceptive. In the same way, the narrative elements you introduce are apparently simple, but your example powerfully illustrates how not any narrative elements will do.

    If you are just coming to this page, READ THE EXCHANGE ABOVE! Not only will it deepen your understanding of this amazing project, but it is a wonderful model for expository writing about a STEM topic (jargon-free, concrete, compelling, and generous in spirit). 

    I'll keep checking back here, because I want to read all of your responses! 

     
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    Mindy Porter
  • Icon for: Laura Santhanam

    Laura Santhanam

    Health Reporter & Coordinating Producer for Polling
    May 10, 2022 | 06:09 p.m.

    Really wonderful approach to creating more meaningful engagement in engineering and thinking about how important it is to frame (and reframe) problems. So important! 

     
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    Mindy Porter
  • Icon for: Mindy Porter

    Mindy Porter

    Co-Presenter
    Director of Education
    May 11, 2022 | 01:19 p.m.

    Thanks, Laura! We were thrilled to see how subtle touches of narrative resulted in increased engagement and made the engineering better.

  • Icon for: Erica Wortham

    Erica Wortham

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2022 | 11:20 a.m.

    Such a wonderful project, video and thoughtful discussion.  I love the way gender is centered and tackled creatively with low-risk, hands-on experiences.  We are looking at the role empathy-driven learning experiences play in student engagement in higher ed engineering contexts – your project zeros in on an aspect I hope to focus on in the coming year, fabrication and DEI.  Thank you for giving "informal" a place at the table :)

     
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    Mindy Porter
  • Icon for: Mindy Porter

    Mindy Porter

    Co-Presenter
    Director of Education
    May 11, 2022 | 12:25 p.m.

    Hi Erica! Thank you for your thoughtful response! It's exciting to hear about the empathy-driven learning project you are working on in the higher ed context. I'm curious to hear more about your findings and how our narrative project intersects. 

  • May 11, 2022 | 09:10 p.m.

    Wow! What an incredible video! I love it. My area of research is creative self-efficacy of women engineering students and the pipeline into engineering, Here is a paper we have on the topic, and my doctoral dissertation. I think you will find these to be interesting.

    Delahanty, C., & Silverman, J. (2021, July), Creative Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Women Engineering Majors Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2—36877

    Delahanty, C. (2020). Creative Self-Efficacy of Undergraduate Women Engineering Majors: A Mixed Methods Study (p. xvi, 188 pages) [Drexel University]. https://doi.org/10.17918/00000005

    I found that the female students in my study did not know what engineering was prior to entering the major, and many had negative perceptions that is was only for males. How do you approach the misconception by some that engineering is a male dominated field? What do you think is the best way to increase the self-efficacy of young female students so that they are more confident in choosing majors like engineering? How powerful do you find the creative aspect of engineering to be in engaging and inspiring these students? 

     
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    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 11, 2022 | 10:30 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing those papers! You raise interesting questions about how to shift underlying perceptions about engineering as a field. Our hope is that by introducing engineering in a human-centered way when children are younger (the children we worked with were as young as 7), we might shift how they perceive what it means to do engineering before they opt out and choose other paths. But we haven't had a chance to investigate whether this is true in more depth yet!

     
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    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 12, 2022 | 09:18 a.m.

    Agree with Suzy. This sounds like another interesting follow-up study to do, hopefully with others who are doing similar work on empathy!

     
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    Amy Alznauer
  • Icon for: Prinda Wanakule

    Prinda Wanakule

    Informal Educator
    May 12, 2022 | 01:59 p.m.

    Hi Christine! Agree with Dorothy & Suzy that you've hit the crucial point -- shifting underlying perceptions about engineering as a field. One reason I was thrilled to be involved in this project was the way in which this approach appeals to human values (i.e. empathy) in the way engineering is presented. As an engineer by training (who fled what felt like an increasingly hostile field the further I progressed), I have long felt that there is a culture shift that needs to happen in the engineering field. One way to do that is to change how we talk about the engineering field, emphasizing the human-centered aspects of engineering as much as we prize the technical aspects. (As a side note, while conducting observations of these activities, I loved the way that presenting narratives allowed youth to define their own technical or performance criteria for their devices!) In a science center, we have the opportunity to present engineering this way to all visitors, not just the girls in the space but also their siblings, peers, and the adults in their lives, hopefully shifting societal perceptions. But as you also called attention to in your dissertation, we need the entire ecosystem to change, as well!

    And thank you for the references -- we've been doing our own thinking about measuring creative self-efficacy in our programs, and this will be very helpful! 

  • May 14, 2022 | 09:34 a.m.

    Hi Prinda! Yes I agree! Thank you. I am extending my study to a much wider audience of undergraduate women engineering majors too to learn more. It is so interesting but very problematic to learn that many successful women engineering majors not only did not know what engineering was when they entered the major, they had a very negative perception that it was just for men, and not a profession for them. Diverse perspectives are crucial to the sustainability of this important profession that serves our society in such a  human way. Just as these workshops have shown, encouraging girls by incorporating empathy into engineering is a great way to help them identify with the profession. This is just wonderful! 

  • May 11, 2022 | 10:24 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing such an incredible video. My research interest also includes designing STEM/CS outreach programs and I am amazed by the findings presented in this video. Could you please say more about how the narrative data is being collected? Did the activities being offered in a one-time workshop or through a more formal class in which parents signed up for their children? Thank you!

  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 11, 2022 | 10:39 p.m.

    I'm happy to share more detail! We developed drop-in museum activities that were available for families to try alongside other exhibits and hands-on activities at our museums. So whenever we were testing our activities, children and their family groups could participate in whenever and for however long they wanted, and we observed how they approached the activities, what engineering design practices they used, and then spoke with them as they were wrapping up to find out more about their thought process while they were creating their designs.

    The drop-in format definitely posed some unique challenges, since we had to make sure that activities were engaging enough that people would be interested to try them in the first place, and hopefully stay and iterate on their ideas. But because people could "vote with their feet," this also allowed us to see that girls stayed longer when the activities had narrative framings that evoked empathy.

    Even though we developed and tested our activities in a drop-in museum setting, the design principles and activity examples in our guide could definitely be used in other kinds of settings, like classrooms or longer workshops or after-school programs. We're very interested in hearing from anyone who tries out these approaches in other spaces!

     
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    Tabatha Rainwater
  • Icon for: Amy Alznauer

    Amy Alznauer

    Facilitator
    Lecturer
    May 12, 2022 | 10:39 a.m.

    It occurs to me that a drop-in museum environment allows students an agency that would not be present in a classroom setting, so for those interested in adapting to a classroom, I wonder if increased choice in the narrative elements might help offset the more constrained environment. But I think the presence alone of narrative elements (even without increased choice) would still go a long way in a classroom setting to providing the kids a sense of agency.

    Have you found that there is a target age? Or that the ideal narrative elements change for older groups?

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 12, 2022 | 11:24 a.m.

    Amy,  I have seen that these additions of narrative or even a tweak to the problem frame in some of our colleagues' work in formal classrooms as well as my former work documenting a design-based high school engineering program go a long way in inviting engagement and investment in the problem.  It is mostly asking, if you are designing a ________,  follow up with a for whom and where? So for example, in a robotics design challenge, rather than creating robots to beat someone to the end of a path, you allow for kids to think about a setting they might be designing for and what their designs will need to be able to do (e.g., a dance floor where you are designing a way for the robots to synchronize their movements for a routine uniquely their own).   Or in another example, I have seen teacher adding characters (small plastic animals) to designing amusement park rides with everyday materials.  We will be testing these ideas out with teachers alongside our collegues at the Amazeum in Arkansas this June and will let you know what we find! Mindy, don't know if you have anything to add about what you have been hearing from the teachers you have recruited.

  • May 12, 2022 | 01:38 p.m.

    So wonderful to see your work again! I didn't know that you had a video posted here until today, but funny enough, I actually referred someone to your work yesterday. They have a similar emphasis on empathy and storytelling but at the higher ed level and I immediately remembered your project. I think I must have heard you present last year at ASEE.  Anyway, I'm obviously a fan, and hope to continue to learn from your research! If you have time, come check out our work too! 

  • May 12, 2022 | 02:09 p.m.

    Gosh, your ideas are catching on! I saw another project connecting engineering and empathy!

  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 12, 2022 | 03:01 p.m.

    The team in Boston has been working on this almost as long as we have, actually, and they're thinking developmentally about how to support empathy in early childhood, and how to support teachers in making a shift in their practices. We're hoping to collaborate with them soon since we're totally speaking the same language! :)

  • Icon for: Ezequiel Aleman

    Ezequiel Aleman

    Graduate Student
    May 12, 2022 | 02:13 p.m.

    Loved the integration of the narrative in this project and the guide you put together.  You did an amazing job at providing guidelines that can be adapted into the work we do without making it prescriptive or feeling it's a collection of pre-baked activities. 

    I was wondering what the process of creating the guide was like. I am currently working on a similar facilitation guide for culturally-relevant game design and it is often difficult not to turn the guide into something prescriptive.

  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 12, 2022 | 02:56 p.m.

    We got a lot of great advice from our partners and advisors as we were putting the guide together. In particular, we got some recommendations to highlight the stories behind each activity, and our rationale for making changes along the way before they reached their final version.

    Knowing that all museums are different (let alone classroom settings or other learning environments), we tried to describe the six activities that we developed as case studies that illustrated our thought process as we tested out different strategies and eventually honed in on what "worked." The idea was to try to give examples of HOW we generated narratives that fit with the engineering goals we had in mind, and to describe what we noticed along the way, to help others either develop their own activities or adjust the ones that we created to suit their audiences or settings.

  • Icon for: Karen Hammerness

    Karen Hammerness

    May 12, 2022 | 03:57 p.m.

    Very much appreciating the framing of this project and the focus on creating empathy; as well as the inclusion of a narrative. I could see this work as so generative in terms of ultimately looking at other areas of prosocial and equitable dimensions, in addition to empathy, to helping young people see the social use and  power of scientific work across a variety of domains. The guide looks very helpful and concrete. I will pass on to my colleauges!

  • Icon for: Lauren Cage

    Lauren Cage

    Co-Presenter
    Content Developer
    May 12, 2022 | 04:50 p.m.

    Thanks so much, Karen! It was exciting for us to see narrative as a tool to not only to increase participation in engineering activities, but overall engagement, hopefully giving learners a chance to see how imporant these prosocial elements are in doing engineering.

  • May 12, 2022 | 07:21 p.m.

    Susan, I was going to ask a similar question as Hui. I have experience in culturally relevant robotics with preschool families. We use narrative as a vehicle for family activities and sharing big conceptual ideas. Our partnering parent leaders have been designing the program with us. (Year 1, design). 


    I noticed you had girl scouts at least in a snippet. My daughter has completed the engineering patches, and, we solved a social issue when we did it. It would be really cool to have local girl scout troops collaborate on the narratives. 


    Great project, much-needed work. I look forward to reading the published work that comes from your efforts. 

  • May 12, 2022 | 07:46 p.m.

    Great project and amazing video! The focus on empathy makes me wonder about how either empathy OR your narrative method might intersect or relate to socioscientific issues and justice-centered engineering. I think it is important how your project makes "classic" engineering projects more accessible, though my own work has taken the route of introducing new, real-world problems that introduce social or environmental justice issues. I am imagining the possibilities of doing both - introducing social and justice-centered problems through these narratives.

    Side note, what struck me is the willingness to share your packet (I would love to see your design principles). But I am not able to get to QR code to take me to it! Would you mind sharing the link?

  • May 17, 2022 | 05:30 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing the link in the replies below! Your project is reminding me of culturally relevant engineering; this research team has a video I encourage you to check out: Teachers' Culturally Relevant Engineering Self-Efficacy

  • Icon for: Efe Frank

    Efe Frank

    Graduate Student
    May 12, 2022 | 08:46 p.m.

    Good project. This is the genesis of engineering "creativity". Job well done.

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 12, 2022 | 08:47 p.m.

    Thanks Christina and great question. I think there is an important t role for narratives to play in justice oriented engineering and socio-scientific issues.  Especially with older children, having them create their own use cases of who they might be designing for based on interviews with stakeholders can encourage deeper problem scoping and ideation.  Would love to hear more about the problems you are thinking of and in what context. 

    Apologies about the QR code.  I am attaching the link here: Guide for Museum Practitioners: Using Narratives to Support Empathy and Engineering  Let us know if you have trouble accessing it.

     
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    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Susan Letourneau

    Susan Letourneau

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Associate
    May 13, 2022 | 12:52 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing the direct link, Dorothy! In addition to our guide, our Informalscience.org project page has links to some of our other publications as well.

  • May 13, 2022 | 02:26 p.m.

    This is such a wonderful project, and thanks for the link to the guide you produced. Our work incorporates live action role play (basically shared improvisational storytelling) into computational learning, hope you will check out our video and would love to talk with you, and also, get references to other publications you may have produced from this work. Very inspiring and sharing with my team! 

    Katherine

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 13, 2022 | 02:39 p.m.

    Hi Katherine,  Would be great to talk to you further about your work.  For access to other articles, just visit our informalscience.org project page.  I also posted the link to our opening post if you come back here again!

  • May 13, 2022 | 02:41 p.m.

    Thank you so much! Going to share with our team, much appreciated :)

    And glad to connect via email to set up some time to talk, katherine.isbister@ucsc.edu

  • Icon for: Brian Smith

    Brian Smith

    Facilitator
    Professor/Associate Dean of Research
    May 14, 2022 | 04:44 p.m.

    Wow, this is fantastic! I'm taking a look at the guide you produced to learn more.

    I'm at Boston College, and we just finished the first year of a new Human-Centered Engineering program. There are similarities between that undergrad degree and the work you're doing with young learners, namely, bringing purpose and meaning to the forefront of engineering design. I saw some mentions of older children in the discussions; I think we'll find some exciting ideas for undergrads studying to be professionals in your work!

     
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    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Prinda Wanakule

    Prinda Wanakule

    Informal Educator
    May 16, 2022 | 07:41 p.m.

    Hi Brian! Wow, so wonderful to hear about the new HC Engineering program. I'm curious what the gender identity mix is looking like for this program versus other engineering programs that you offer. I would have loved to study something like this! I'm quite looking forward to meeting the next generation of human-centered engineers!

    Building off of the work we learned through this project, at The Tech Interactive, we've incorporated additional empathy-building practices into other engineering activities, for example, interviewing users. Many of the high school youth that we've been working with have been very inspired by stories around climate justice, motivating a stronger interest in STEM careers! These older youth really appreciated hearing these authentic stories, or being able to work directly with an end user, rather than the narratives we used for this project, which worked well for drop-in museum activities.

  • Icon for: Andee Rubin

    Andee Rubin

    Facilitator
    Senior Scientist
    May 15, 2022 | 03:02 p.m.

     Just cycling back to this video to read the ongoing discussion, which is wonderfully rich!  It seems to me that you're getting kids to do REAL engineering - which always has a purpose deeply rooted in human needs and dilemmas.  It's sad how we sometimes remove that part of engineering (and other subjects) when we think about education.  I often think of some of my favorite math educators - Janet Ainley and Dave Pratt of the UK - who emphasize designing educational tasks with purpose and utility - as seen from the learners' perspective.  Thank you for your work - and thanks to all the commenters for making this such a valuable discussion.

     
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    Christina Baze
  • Icon for: Prinda Wanakule

    Prinda Wanakule

    Informal Educator
    May 16, 2022 | 07:44 p.m.

    Thanks, Andee, I couldn't agree more! I'm not as familiar with math education -- I'll have to read more works by Janet Ainley and Dave Pratt. Thanks for sharing.

  • May 17, 2022 | 03:15 a.m.

    This work is fascinating -- it's cool how you're harnessing the power of narratives (even fictional ones) to make the need for an engineering solution real.  It connects with my team's work on Learning by Observing and Pitching In to family and community endeavors, in that way. 

  • Icon for: Jackelyn Lopez Roshwalb

    Jackelyn Lopez Roshwalb

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 15, 2022 | 09:51 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing this important work. I find it so compelling that not only are the participants more engaged, they are using more engineering practices too. I also wanted to commend you for such a rich discussion board. I feel like I've learned so much just reading through the thoughtful exchanges here!

  • Icon for: Jamie Bell

    Jamie Bell

    Project Director
    May 16, 2022 | 08:56 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing this clearly-described approach to this research in service to practice project, and for providing access to the practitioner guide that resulted from the work. Thanks also for providing a peek at how the narrative activities are playing out at the partner institutions. Were there any interesting differences in how the character, setting and problem frames, or the aspects of empathy worked in each institution or region?

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 16, 2022 | 12:56 p.m.

    This has been a rich discussion! Many thanks for the thoughtful questions and comments.  Andee, I have to second what you said-  it is sad to think engineering and other subject areas have been so separated from addressing human needs and dilemmas. I think what most excited me about this work is that while it took a great deal of iteration to get a sense of what worked, the changes one can make to bring empathy to the center are not a heavy lift for many. 

    In terms your question Jamie:   Based on our iterative testing in the first two years, we generally all started with the same guidelines for the narrative framing of the activities and for the basic types of materials needed to conduct the activity (e.g., having three different landscapes with three different textures or providing materials that can serve as connectors for the air powered vehicle activity).  But each museum used materials they had available to them and their own ingenuity in extending the narrative frames that we were testing to suit their settings and audiences. For example, our colleagues at the Tech were creative in adding hardhats from a former earthquake exhibit they had on hand to the earthquake structure activity which enhanced the narrative framing and added role play opportunities for younger children that seemed to promote visibly more collaboration within the space.  While all of the activities were not part of the formal evaluation across sites, we did observe qualitatively that these small modifications seemed to go a long way in increasing engagement in practices and in fostering empathy. At NYSCI, we varied the Help the Pets activity by not only having the automated pets present but adding collars on the pets that had prompts like, I "want to play" or "I am hungry" and our evaluators did see more expressions of empathy and wider array of engineering practices with the addition of the collars to make the presence of the end users' needs more present.  

    The guide includes many of these stories from across our three sites and we hope people will let us know if they help!

  • Icon for: Dennis Kleinman

    Dennis Kleinman

    May 16, 2022 | 06:24 p.m.

    What an excellent program and video!  I work a lot with narrative as a teaching tool, and this has given me a lot to think about.  The program my team and I are presenting this year, which was funded by the Department of Defense, uses a variety of narrative structures to teach the science behind BioFabrication. (https://stemforall2022.videohall.com/presentations/2489).  Part of our mandate intersects with yours, which is to bring more women into STEM.  To that end we again brought narrative into play.  We created videos that tell the stories of recent college graduates and how they came to working for BioFab startups.  You can view them here: Building a Strong Workforce Alliance for Biofabrication & Bioengineering through K-12 Education.  I'd love to get your thoughts!  

  • Icon for: Dorothy Bennett

    Dorothy Bennett

    Lead Presenter
    Director of Creative Pedagogy
    May 17, 2022 | 01:14 a.m.

    Hi Ezequiel, A long one! We made a decision rather early on that we didn't want to be prescriptive and that our activities while they could be implemented the way they ended up, it was really the design principles that we wanted people to see in action.  Fortunately, as part of our design-based research process, our team had protocols for documenting activity modifications along the way which gave us good content to use and offered us the opportunity to backtrack and tell the story of the evolution of an activity and design decisions that made a difference.  We then experimented with different ways to visually and in words tell that story.  We got very good input from our advisors to the project on what kinds of information and framing made the most sense.    So lessons learned, if your goal is not to be prescriptive, keep that as a guiding goal in the organization of your guide, document the evolution of you work well along the way,  involve your advisors  or critical friends into the process on early drafts and experiment with formats.

  • Icon for: Kristin A DiVona

    Kristin A DiVona

    Informal Educator
    May 17, 2022 | 11:18 a.m.

    I love this project. Empathy is important in so many ways. I read a paper recently that talked about how girls tend to choose careers where they can help people. It suggested that if engineering and design are presented in a way that highlights how people can be helped, it might be one way to keep young girls on a STEM path.

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