What is DTEEL?

Design Technology and Engineering Education (DTEEL) for bilingual English Learner Students is a K-5th grade curriculum focused on language development through engineering design and problem solving. Each grade level includes a series of units focused on different aspects of engineering: Materials, Structures, Mechanisms, and Work & Energy. The last two grade levels add units that synthesize these engineering components with a Systems focus on Systems. Each lesson includes instructional strategies to strategically integrate language use and engineering content. The curriculum is thus designed to build on the assets that emergent bilingual students (García, 2009) bring to the classroom and provide them with research-based instructional supports for their meaningful participation and learning in engineering education.

What are the goals of DTEEL?

The DTEEL curriculum is designed provide all students with a rigorous sequence of activities to develop language skills through problem solving skills with real materials. DTEEL is designed to capitalize on bilingual EL students’ strengths as problem-solvers (Bialystok & Majumder, 1998) through linguistically engaging STEM instruction. Lessons allow students to also develop teamwork skills and an appreciation for differences and talents, as well as a critical appreciation for the human thinking that has created technology to solve problems. Engineering and language development intersect in productive ways when students design and problem solving actually results in the emergence of previously unforeseen challenges, prompting more discussion and creativity. It is our hope that the DTEEL approach to rigorous problem solving processes will support bilingual EL students’ overall achievement and timely exit from EL programs, ultimately improving their opportunities to learn STEM effectively.

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What is the rationale behind DTEEL?

Curriculum in elementary science needs to engage children in more rigorous, interesting, and practical experiences. Such a challenge has been outlined in the Texas (TEKS) and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Moreover, traditional approaches to teaching EL students often prioritize the English language over content learning, thereby contributing to disparities in their access to engaging and challenging STEM content. In response, DTEEL adopts a cross-disciplinary approach that weaves together research findings on inquiry-based science (Buxton, Lee, & Santau, 2008; Lee & Maerten-Rivera, 2012) and bilingual problem solving (Bialystok & Majumder, 1998; Secada, 1991) in alignment with the Texas English proficiency standards (ELPS). This approach suggests that EL students and other emergent bilinguals, well-versed in analyzing their worlds from multiple perspectives, may particularly benefit from an engineering systems thinking approach.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. (1503428-PI, Callahan). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.