Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 18, Issue 3, pp 209–223 | Cite as

The Impact of an Engineering Design Curriculum on Science Reasoning in an Urban Setting

  • Eli M. SilkEmail author
  • Christian D. Schunn
  • Mari Strand Cary


This study examines the use of engineering design to facilitate science reasoning in high-needs, urban classrooms. The Design for Science unit utilizes scaffolds consistent with reform science instruction to assist students in constructing a design solution to satisfy a need from their everyday lives. This provides a meaningful context in which students could reason scientifically. Eighth grade students from two urban schools participated in the unit. Both schools contained large percentages of racial/ethnic minority and economically disadvantaged students. Students demonstrated statistically significant improvement on a paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice pre and post assessment. The results compare favorably with both a high-quality inquiry science unit and a traditional textbook curriculum. Implications for the use of design-based curricula as a viable alternative for teaching science reasoning in high-needs, urban settings are discussed.


Science reasoning Engineering design Design for science Urban education 



We would like to acknowledge Anton Lawson for allowing us to use the Classroom Test of Scientific Reasoning, Kalyani Raghavan from the MARS curriculum for her help with the data collection and useful feedback on the writing, and the teachers and students who invited us into their classrooms. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant EHR-0227016. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eli M. Silk
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christian D. Schunn
    • 1
  • Mari Strand Cary
    • 2
  1. 1.Learning Research & Development CenterUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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