Technological and Engineering Design Based Learning: Supporting Graphical Device Comprehension Instruction at the Upper Elementary School Level

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Virginia Tech


The goal of this study was to examine the use of a technological and engineering design based learning (T/E DBL) challenge as a strategy for facilitating student comprehension of nonfiction/informational text inclusive of graphical devices. The data for this mixed methods exploratory case study were collected using a variety of instruments which assessed the prior knowledge, general graphical device comprehension, and reading comprehension of both familiar and unfamiliar texts in order to form a detailed picture of the six participants throughout the study. The six participants were examined as whole group and as reading level dyads (below, on, and above grade level) as they progressed through three T/E DBL challenges that were developed to support graphical device comprehension instruction.

T/E DBL was found to increase reader text interactions and graphical device usage, support the development of general graphical device comprehension for diagrams and tables, improve comprehension of unfamiliar science texts, and provide particular benefit to below grade level readers. The results of this study demonstrate the need for further research into the benefits of T/E DBL for reading instruction, particularly of graphical devices. This research should include a further exploration of the potential benefits for graphical device comprehension and comprehension of unfamiliar science and engineering texts that include graphical devices, as well as the curricular, training, and implementation needs.



graphical device comprehension, Design Based Learning, reading comprehension, elementary education, elementary engineering