Citation
A design-based approach to teaching sustainability

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Title:
A design-based approach to teaching sustainability
Creator:
Walter, Kim R. ( author )
Place of Publication:
Denver, CO
Publisher:
University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:
Language:
English
Physical Description:
1 online resource (100 pages) : ;

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords:
Environmental education ( lcsh )
Instructional systems -- Design ( lcsh )
Sustainability -- Study and teaching ( lcsh )
Genre:
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )

Notes

Review:
We live on a finite ecological system, yet consume as though resources are unlimited. Current environmental data suggests many in the developed world are living beyond what the earth is able to sustain. The paradigms in which we operate continue to support a path of constant consumption that continues to exacerbate this problem. Technology educators can and should play a valuable role in working with students to question these paradigms through lessons that begin to engage students toward thinking about a more sustainable future. Design-based instruction provides a framework for instructional practices that allows students to build problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they begin to understand deeper concepts related to sustainability. This study examined middle school students' understanding of sustainability after completing a design based unit. The study evaluated student work, concept maps, observations and pre-and post-tests to determine student understanding of sustainability. Instruction involved aspects of problem-based learning, design education and the use of technology. Students were given an authentic problem of designing a sustainable home. As part of the design process, students conducted research on the factors and specific design components that would make a home sustainable. The main question guiding this study was "How can a home design project impact middle school students' understanding and appreciation of sustainability?" The findings suggest students demonstrated significant growth in understanding concepts of sustainability and were able to apply sustainable concepts in their designs. Eighty percent of students were able to meet or exceed rubric expectations on explaining the importance of sustainability. All of the students also demonstrated considerable growth in the understanding and application of sustainable solutions to their designs. They were able to propose authentic solutions to the problem and apply their research.
Thesis:
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Colorado Denver. Educational leadership and innovation
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references.
General Note:
School of Education and Human Development
Statement of Responsibility:
by Kim R. Walter.

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Source Institution:
|University of Colorado Denver
Holding Location:
|Auraria Library
Rights Management:
All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
868161771 ( OCLC )
ocn868161771

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Full Text
A DESIGN-BASED APPROACH TO TEACHING SUSTAINABILITY
by
Kim R Walter
B.S. University of Wisconsin Madison, 1994
M.S. University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, 2002
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Educational Leadership and Innovation
Spring 2013


This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by
Kim R Walter
has been approved for the
Education and Leadership Innovation Program
by
Alan Davis, Advisor
Joanna Dunlap, Chair
Connie Stewart
Laura Summers
April 11th, 2013


Walter, Kim R (Ph.D. Educational Leadership and Innovation)
A Design-Based Approach to Teaching Sustainability
Thesis directed by Professor Alan Davis.
ABSTRACT
We live on a finite ecological system, yet consume as though resources are
unlimited. Current environmental data suggests many in the developed world are living
beyond what the earth is able to sustain. The paradigms in which we operate continue to
support a path of constant consumption that continues to exacerbate this problem.
Technology educators can and should play a valuable role in working with students to
question these paradigms through lessons that begin to engage students toward thinking
about a more sustainable future.
Design-based instruction provides a framework for instructional practices that
allows students to build problem-solving and critical thinking skills as they begin to
understand deeper concepts related to sustainability. This study examined middle school
students understanding of sustainability after completing a design based unit. The study
evaluated student work, concept maps, observations and pre-and post-tests to determine
student understanding of sustainability. Instruction involved aspects of problem-based
learning, design education and the use of technology.
Students were given an authentic problem of designing a sustainable home. As
part of the design process, students conducted research on the factors and specific design
components that would make a home sustainable. The main question guiding this study
was How can a home design project impact middle school students understanding and
m


appreciation of sustainability?
The findings suggest students demonstrated significant growth in understanding
concepts of sustainability and were able to apply sustainable concepts in their designs.
Eighty percent of students were able to meet or exceed rubric expectations on explaining
the importance of sustainability. All of the students also demonstrated considerable
growth in the understanding and application of sustainable solutions to their designs.
They were able to propose authentic solutions to the problem and apply their research.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Alan Davis
IV


DEDICATION
I dedicate this work to PATRICK DAY and MY STUDENTS.
v


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I would like to thank all the members of my committee for their support. I would
like to give a special thanks to Alan Davis for his continued support in this process, and
Paul Day for help with editing.
vi


TABLE OF CONTENTS
CHAPTER
I. INTRODUCTION...........................................................1
Statement of the Problem............................................3
Rationale and Purpose of the Study..................................4
Research Questions..................................................6
Preview of Methodology..............................................7
Evolving History of Design Unit in the Technology Classroom.........8
II. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE.........................14
Conceptual Framework...............................................14
Problem-based Learning..........................................15
The Design Process..............................................19
Literature Review..................................................21
Dialogue and Learning...........................................21
Experiential Learning...........................................23
Relationship to Sociocultural Concepts of Learning..............25
Design as Inquiry...............................................28
Knowledge Building..............................................30
Scaffolds for Problem-Based Learning............................32
Graphic Organizers and Learning.................................33
III. METHODS AM) PROCEDURES...............................................35
Methods............................................................36
School Setting and Participants.................................36
Instructional Practice..........................................37
Research and Procedures............................................43
vii


Qualitative Data......................................................43
Quantitative Data.....................................................45
IV. FINDINGS....................................................................49
Research Findings.........................................................49
Student Understanding of Sustainability...................................49
Importance of Sustainability Factors..................................51
Changes in Lifestyle Choices..........................................54
Student Proposed Sustainable Solutions................................56
Making Choices about Sustainability...................................60
Summary...................................................................71
V. DISCUSSION..................................................................73
Interpretation and Meaning of Findings....................................75
Implications..............................................................76
Implications for Technology Instruction...............................77
Implications for Design-Based Instruction.............................79
Implications for Research and Further Questions for Study.............80
Limitations...............................................................80
REFERENCES.......................................................................82
viii


LIST OF TABLES
Table
IV. 1 Pre and Post-Test Data..................................................52
IV.2 Demonstration of Student Learning........................................63
IX


LIST OF FIGURES
Figure
II. 1 Concept Map...............................................................15
II. 2 The Design Process........................................................20
III. 3 The Design Loop.........................................................40
in.4 2 Column Notes.............................................................40
III. 5 Assessing Understanding of Sustainability...............................44
III. 6 Scoring Rubric...........................................................47
IV. 7 Student Example 1........................................................56
IV.8 Student Example 2........................................................57
IV.9 Student Example 3........................................................58
IV. 10 Student Example 4.......................................................58
IV. 11 Student Example 5.......................................................60
x


LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
ESD Education for Sustainable Development
PBL Problem Based Learning
CHAT Cultural Historical Activity Theory


CHAPTER I
INTRODUCTION
The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter
of the worlds fossil fuel resourcesburning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil,
and 27 % of the worlds natural gas (World Watch Institute, 2011). World Watch further
suggests that the average home size has increased by 38%, while the total number of
people living in the home has decreased (2011). In the developed world alone, citizens
consume 20-30 percent more than the planet is able to handle (Hales & Corvalan, 2006;
Vitousek, Mooney, Lubchenco, & Melillo, 1997). Consumption rates are moving faster
than the earth can replace the resources being used (Head, 2011). As the population of
the planet increases, demand for resources will also continue to increase and available
productive land will continue to decrease. Current levels of average consumption world-
wide require 2.02 hectares per person, while Britain and the United States alone are using
6 to 10 hectares per person (Head, 2011). The United Nations (1992) findings directly
identify the cause of this unsustainable path as consumption and production, particularly
in developed countries, that will ultimately lead to continued degradation of the
environment.
Head (2011) states, Energy consumption is central to our model of human
development, and in designing and building these systems, we have created the hard
wiring of a non-renewable fossil fuel resource-consuming society (p. 21). Yet, the
current political and economic discussions focus primarily on continued material growth.
Consumption is seen as a right for everyone in society (Harper, 2007; Bush, 2007). The


tragedy of this thinking is a discourse that has compromised the environment and our
health. Attention to the problem is dealt with ... as something to be considered only if
forced to do so by threat of regulation or economic sanction. These paradigms are no
longer viable or defensible from an ethical or moral standpoint (Elshof, 2008, p. 134).
This system of production to constant consumption has been created and therefore can be
changed.
The United States operates under an economic paradigm that uses non-renewable
resources ending in landfills, polluting and destroying the eco-system that provides life
(Head, 2011). This very linear system does not work given the environmental constraints
of finite resources on a finite planet. It is a consumption-driven model that designs for
manufacturing-to-consumption and ultimately for the landfill through both planned
obsolescence and perceived obsolescence (Grossman, 2006). Sustainability challenges
the system of production-to-consumption as well as the assumption of continuous
economic growth (Fraud-Luke, 2009). Educating about sustainability enables students to
challenge these paradigms and equips students to propose ideas to address these issues.
Characterized by its combination of content, methods, and intended learner outcomes,
the aim of sustainable education is to help students understand and respond to complex
environmental, social, and economic issues in a way that promotes sustainable living
(Higgins and McMillan, 2006, p 40).
Sustainability is defined by the World Commission on Environment and
Development (Brundtland Report) as the systematic, long-term use of natural resources
so that these are available for future generations (1987, p. 43). This provides a working
definition for the classroom. However, Fihlo, Evangelos and Pace (2008) believe the


definition should be constantly evolving and that Education for Sustainable Development
(ESD) needs to be defined by questions that require a rethinking of educational traditions
and norms to meet the needs of ESD. Education and teacher education programs must
begin to prepare students for a sustainable future (Gross, 2000). Students today did not
design or create the current paradigm. They are, however, active participants and
consumers. Sustainability, as part of the curriculum, can help students understand their
role in caring for the environment (Elshof, 2008). Technology classes provide an
opportunity to address this challenge. It is imperative that education in and for
sustainable practices plays a central role in technology education (Elshof, 2008).
Statement of the Problem
Limited research has been conducted to examine the nature of learning
understanding of sustainability in technology education (Middleton, 2009).
Additionally, many of the leading organizations charged with developing educational
standards call for problem solving, critical thinking, and developing technology skills.
They do not however address the need for understanding sustainability. The Tech Tally,
a report by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the National Research
Council (2002), categorized characteristics of a technology literate person in areas of
knowledge, critical thinking, decision making, and technological capabilities. However,
the Tech Tally does not include environmental or sustainability concepts in technological
thinking, design and capability that are needed to address problems of today and in the
future. The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) and 21st Century
Skills have also created technology standards and frameworks for education (ISTE, 2007;
21st Century Skills, 2008). These also do not mention the need for students to understand
3


sustainability concepts. Educating for understanding of sustainability concepts, in
addition to problem solving and critical thinking skills, will help students to rethink the
current economic and social paradigms. Education for sustainable development can
empower individuals toward transformative actions that result in changes in world view
(Pavlova, 2009). Given the reality of our natural systems, a change in consumption, i.e. a
drastic change of everyday habits is upon us (Elshof, 2009). Mckeown (2002) further
states, The challenge is to raise the education levels without creating an ever-growing
demand for resources and consumer goods and the accompanying production of
pollutants. Meeting this challenge depends on reorienting curriculums to address the
need for more-sustainable production and consumption patterns (p. 11). Components of
successful sustainable education design have three main goals (a) students understand
problems and issues for sustainable futures: (b) to promote awareness of sustainability
through projects and activities, and (c) to use eco-design principles (Pavlova, 2009). The
technology classroom provides an ideal setting for the teaching of sustainability concepts
(Gross, 2000). Interestingly, the most educated nations also have the highest
consumption rates (McKeown, 2002). Technology education for sustainability is a
human created and directed activity whose purpose is to bring about purposeful change in
student learning, teaching effectiveness, and program effectiveness in an exemplary way
(Gross, 2000). Technology education and learning about sustainability allows for the fact
that design problems are a new conceptualization of problem solving (Middleton, 1998).
Rationale and Purpose of the Study
I undertook this study to examine in detail students participation in this unit and
their subsequent understanding of sustainability concepts upon completion. Several years
4


ago I introduced a unit on sustainability in a suburban middle school. The unit emerged
as a central challenge for me as a teacher. In my view the unit had the potential of
accomplishing the technology objectives of the course and teaching students essential
knowledge about sustainability at the same time. The initial experience, however, did not
meet my expectations, but met with enough success as the students were interested in the
technology and did learn about sustainability to convince me that my expectations were
not unrealistic. I decided to systematically study my efforts to improve the unit and
document in detail the learning of the students as they progressed through it. As a work
of action research, this study had the dual purpose of informing my own practice as a
teacher using technology to teach about sustainability, and to explore with a wider
audience the broader potential and implications of using design to teach about
sustainability. The purpose of this study is to explore middle school students
understanding of the concept of sustainability within technology education as an effort to
improve classroom instruction. The study used the case of a middle school technology
unit to carry out this purpose. Sustainability is often a difficult concept for middle school
students. Many students think of sustainability as structurally sound objects or eco-
friendly products and recycling.
A further reason for this study is to address assumptions students and parents have
toward sustainability. Most of the students begin this study not really understanding
sustainability beyond being eco-friendly. Many of their parents dont agree with the
discussion of this issue or that of climate change in the classroom, as both are often seen
as a values debate rather than an issue on established knowledge. Given the climate
change data and other environmental issues, it is imperative such issues be presented in
5


the classroom. Instruction should go beyond political controversy to alternative ways of
addressing future problems while giving students tools to question and rethink the current
paradigms.
This thesis evaluated student created solutions to sustainability problems in addition
to instructional tools such as concept maps, observations and pre-and post-tests.
Instruction involved the use of the design process, concepts from problem-based learning,
and the use of technology. Students were given an authentic problem of designing a
sustainable home. As part of the design process, students conducted research on
sustainability as it relates to home design. They had specific design factors and
components to address. They used research to inform their design proposals as well as to
enhance their understanding of sustainability. Aspects of problem-based learning and
design-based instruction provided a framework for the learning environment, which is
particularly well suited to leading students to a lasting change in both understanding and
attitudes towards sustainability. This framework guided the overriding question of the
research.
Research Questions
The focus of this research is on applying a problem based learning model on
design based instruction in an attempt to develop a greater understanding of the subject
matter, make connections across disciplines and build problem solving skills. The main
question that will guide the research is, How can a home design project impact middle
school students understanding and appreciation of sustainability? Questions that will
help guide the study include:
1. What are middle school students attitudes and understanding of sustainability
6


before and after a design unit?
2. Why are sustainable practices important?
3. After completion, has the project impacted students ideas about personal
lifestyle choices in terms of consumption?
4. What sustainable solutions do students propose for home design?
5. How do students approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the
architecture project?
6. How did students apply sustainability ideas in their proposals, and why did
they make those specific choices?
Preview of Methodology
The study involved action research. As a teacher and scholar, action research
provides support for the instructor as researcher. Action research helps the instructor
document context, procedures, growth, and theory to aide in developing and improving
classroom practices (Fisher & Phelps, 2006). Action research conducted by teachers also
offers a valuable contribution by reflective practitioners (Suter, 2006).
My questions for the study emerged from reflection on the unit related to
classroom practice, student needs, and a specific focus on improving the lessons. This is
supported by Cocran-Smith and Lytle (1990) when they discuss teacher developed
questions; teacher developed questions come from areas in need of improvement and a
combination of both theory and practice. Teacher research will force the re-evaluation of
current theories and will significantly influence what is known about teaching, learning,
and schooling. The study uses both quantitative and qualitative date to inform
understanding. This is comparable to research tools used in other methods of study.
Qualitative data was comprised of teacher observations, evaluations of student
created maps, concept statements and the final design solution. The final product
included the design and a paragraph (concept statement) explaining the sustainability
factors used in the design of the home. Students also created a concept map of their
7


learning throughout the process. These artifacts were analyzed for the connections
students made as a means of understanding their learning.
Classroom observations were also recorded in a daily journal during at the end of
each class. Observations and subsequent recordings included three components: (a)
interactions that occurred with students including student questions, (b) teacher feedback
from students questions, (c) students use of feedback in the designs.
The last component of data collection was conducting individual meetings with
the students. I met directly with the students to discuss their grade and the ideas in their
project. Students had to reflect on their designs, goals, problems that occurred, and their
overall learning in small groups with the instructor.
Pre-and post-tests were administered to get an overview of student understanding
of their learning prior to the study of the unit and then as a result of the unit. The goal
was to examine the greatest student understanding and application of the concept of
sustainability before and upon completion of the unit.
Evolving History of Design Unit in the Technology Classroom
Because of the continually evolving nature of the unit, action research supported
data collection that lead to the improvement of the lesson. I initiated the unit for two
main reasons. First, the current environmental paradigm needed to be taught, and
research suggested the technology curriculum was a great avenue for addressing the
concern. Second, I had a new opportunity to develop and create a more challenging
curriculum since moving from a classroom designed around the students rotating through
twelve different stations to a classroom with more computers. The additional technology
8


provided an opportunity to develop a richer, more challenging curriculum to meet the
needs of the 21st century.
A characteristic of design research is that it is an interactive and ongoing process.
Each revision of the design is based on an examination of the strengths and weaknesses
of the previous version. In that sense, this project has evolved through an informal
process of design research. I have been teaching the sustainability unit for seven years.
It developed as I began looking for curriculum that challenged students to go deeper into
a problem. Design problems challenge students to problem solve and allow for easy
connections beyond the classroom. I also needed design problems that did not require
high cost software. Google SketchUp was a cost-effective choice which afforded a wider
range of possibilities in terms of design problems.
I originally started by giving students the problem: designing a sustainable home
for a family of four, and then guiding them through the design process. This ever-
evolving lesson started with me being very explicit about the design process. Students
started with understanding the problem, researching and then creating proposals. Many
of the original final designs demonstrated that students really wanted to just design a
dream home, but with limited thought put into sustainability. I then began having
students begin their research by going home and evaluating the spaces in their home.
They listed what things were in their home and how often they were used. Students
brought back their research and we discussed in a large group what was needed versus
what was wanted in the home and then went on to completing research and proposals.
However, the students often had difficulty applying their research to their designs, or
were unwilling to do real research, or didnt complete the homework.
9


I decided the research component needed to be more helpful to the students so I
began digging for sources to help students see more examples. I located a design
competition in Chicago where architects proposed sustainable home designs for low
income housing. The article explained the thought process of the architects and an
accompanying set of handouts to go over with students as part of the research aspect. I
searched for resources and then had students complete web quests for their research
component. This was difficult as there were very limited, kid-friendly resources on
architecture and sustainability available for students. I tried working in Inspiration, a
software program that enables the user to organize information in a web format. The
students built webs of their research findings and even worked with them in large groups,
but students still wanted to spend much of their time adding basketball courts and
swimming pools to their final designs. It was evident that they were still not grasping the
research or applying their research to their project.
I then started looking for sample graphic organizers that might help all students
organize their research findings into a more useful format. I experimented with different
types of notes, non-linear organizers like clusters or webs that help students connect ideas
to thinking maps. The most effective seemed to be two column notes. Students could
easily organize their research findings and quickly apply them to their home. The guide
for the notes came from the My Footprint quiz, allowing for understanding of the
problem in a simpler context.
Additionally, about this time I found The Story of Stuff video by Annie Leonard.
This made the problem of sustainability more easily understandable for the students. The
students connected with the images and questions in the video, thus making the design
10


problem authentic. I saw kids ask more questions after the video concerning why society
continues on an unsustainable path. I brought in architects to discuss their work with the
students and to help them make connections to what they were doing and to possible
career choices. The architects gave the most valuable feedback on my lesson, there by
altering what I needed to do to get the students to understand the problem. This
connection within the business community was invaluable at helping fine-tune the lesson
before and after each session to best help the students. They are, after all, experts in their
field. After working with them I have changed the lesson and continue to make
alterations as knowledge in the field evolves, and I get better at addressing the needs of
the students.
The architects suggested narrowing the lesson to specific locations. I now give
the students a choice of building locations. Such a focus challenges students to think
more about actually applying their research based on a specific location. I have used
Google Earth to mark specific locations that students must look up and then try to design
accordingly. I have worked with students to think more about designing for a purpose
that goes beyond sustainability, for a family for instance.
The architects would work with students on the size of their home as it related to
sustainability. Students often had homes ranging from 2 inches to 2000 feet long. The
architects measured the students models. As a result, I had students measure aspects of a
building and use those measurements in their home (for example the height of a story,
height of a door, width of a door, and dimensions of furniture). This attention to detail
helps students apply them to the design. When students were given the measurements
11


they did not apply them as easily as when they were asked to measure and record these
measurements themselves.
I have also worked with students to design a home within a specific budget. The
students must research the average family income and price of an average home and
design with this budget in mind. The architects advised this as a way for students to think
about addressing client needs rather than their own. I have no longer use this aspect up as
part of the instruction, not because it wasnt valuable, but because the focus for the
students was no longer on sustainability, even though that was still part of the design
problem.
The architects have also recommended getting the students to think more about
the design of their home. Sustainability can be addressed through design, an issue
addressed in the solar home competition video the students viewed this past year.
Placement of the home and windows are one example. The architects suggested getting
students to utilize solar panels in the design, not just randomly place on the roof. As a
result of their suggestions, I have spent more class time showing specific homes with
design features that address sustainability.
The architects proposed having students write the concept statement. This makes
the students articulate their goals and explain how they specifically addressed
sustainability in their design. This has proved invaluable to getting students to discuss
and be accountable for their thinking in their design and the justification for the purpose
of their design. Another aspect suggested by the architects is to have students set a goal
with their design, that isnt just creating a sustainable home, such as for a family or a
place the student wants to live. The lesson itself is ever-evolving as more resources
12


become available. The lesson examined for the study added a research component for the
students. Students had to search for two more additional website resources. They often
found websites that are easier and more interesting for them to understand. Toward this
end I chose to work with the school librarian and for searching and evaluating websites.
The goal of the project is to aid in conceptual change as it relates to sustainability
concepts, help students build skills and apply research to their problem solving, and build
problem solving skills and strategies. The role as a teacher scholar is to evaluate the
degree to which students met these goals.
13


CHAPTER II
CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Conceptual Framework
A framework for issues the curriculum needs to address in education for
sustainable development (ESD) are provided by Filho, Evangelos, & Pace (2008):
Students should have qualities such as human values; perspectives such as respect
and tolerance; a sense of caring for the environment and others, and the personal
and vocational skills to be self-reliant and not become a victim of circumstances.
Moreover, they need to understand the strategic issues facing them at the local
and the global levels and how each of these issues regarding the environment, the
economy and societys well-being are interdependent. In this context,
fundamental skills such as critical and ethical thinking, problem-solving,
consensus building and conflict resolution as well as the knowledge that science,
business, and politics must work together are essential components of an ESD
program, (p. 138)
Problem-based learning provides a guide for educating about sustainability in design-
based problems as it guides students to toward conceptual change. The design process is
a framework for students to understand a problem in depth. In this section I will discuss
problem-based learning and design instruction. Finally, I trace the theoretical and
philosophical roots of both problem-based learning and design instruction and their
relationship to the sociocultural approach of Vygotsky.
The teacher plays a facilitator role as the students progress through the design
process. Classroom practices that students will use include cooperative learning groups,
14


creating connections to what students already know, and connecting learning to the real
world. As a result students will see growth in their understanding of sustainability, and
the ability to apply this knowledge in their lives and to create solutions to problems they
identify. See Figure IF 1.
Figure II.l Concept Map
Sociocultural theory and experiential learning inform teacher practice through the use
of problem-based learning and design instruction.
Problem-based Learning
The sustainability unit draws on the traditions of problem-based learning and
design education. While there are specific models and procedures for the use of
problem-based learning this unit does not follow a particular refined model, but rather
draws on important elements such as student-centered practices, having multiple
solutions, reflection, evaluation, and teacher facilitator role. Students were left to use
their own initiative and processes to arrive at their own unique solutions and were not
graded on how well the model conformed to a specific outcome. They were provided
scaffolding to address important aspects of the problem. In problem-based learning
students are given a problem, issue or situation to address (Todd, 2009). Problem-based
15


learning (PBL) can be defined as,
... an educational format that attempts to simulate real life practice settings
through pre-defined problem scenarios to encourage the discussion and learning
of the experiences that emanate from practice-based problems. It is a method that
fosters independent learning, encourages students to practically tackle perplexing
situations and actively define their own gaps in understanding the problems in
their realistic contexts, and enhances a more comprehensive as well as deeper
understanding of the material rather than superficial coverage. (Eilouti, 2007, p.
198)
The PBL process has six dimensions according to Burrows and Kelson (1993) and
Savery (2006): (a) develop a problem-solving approach to higher order thinking skills,
(b) acquire knowledge that can be transferred to other situations, (c) direct their own
learning, (d) develop skills to work with a team, (e) develop life-long learning skills, and
(f) build habits for self-reflection and evaluation. Pierce and Jones (2000, p. 79) also
support this, Both contextual learning and problem-based learning can be seen as
continua, moving from a low to a high degree of application.
Ill-structured problems are those often encountered in real life contexts and are a
predominant workplace skill (Jonassen, 2006). Problems create meaningful learning,
particularly when structured to be active, constructive, cooperative and intentional
(Jonassen, Howland, Marra, Crismond, 2008). The specific type of problem students are
undertaking in this case is a design problem. Jonassen defines this as a problem that is
goal directed toward the production of an object and has real world application that
16


requires structuring (2004). Problem-based learning allows students to connect and gain
knowledge across disciplines (Boud, 1995). Problem-based learning goals are similar to
the goals of design education (Eilouti, 2007). According to Eilouti (2007, p. 199), Most
design problems are known to be ill-structured and are based on multi-disciplinary
knowledge and multiple information resources thus they are suitable for the multifaceted
PBL model application. Optimal problem-based learning lends itself to a focus on real
world problems. It is learner directed where the teachers and students work together as
researchers and learners. Students work directly with experts in the field through
discussions, workplace visits, and evaluations (Pierce & Jones, 2000).
The design problem, designing a sustainable home, requires students to complete
research to inform their designs and understand what knowledge they must obtain to
complete a design. Students must understand what sustainability is, why it is important
and how it can be specifically addressed in their designs. They also must create a design
that a person would actually want to build or use. There isnt a right or wrong answer to
the problem, leaving it ill-structured. Problem-based learning is also student-centered
with small groups that are experiential and directed by the students, with the teacher
acting as a facilitator (Hakkarainen, 2009). Design instruction works in a similar fashion.
Students must engage in observation, identifying issues, framing problems,
collaboratively working, discussing ideas, and presenting these ideas visually and
verbally, as well as periods of reflection and critique (Davis et al. 1997). Sustainability
problems are by nature complex and ill-defined requiring original solutions. As a result,
sustainability problems are really design problems (Middleton, 2008). The design
process and design problems lend themselves to students learning and developing these
17


skills. Design problems are complex and self-directed; they require collaboration and
self-reflection as well as revision of ideas (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial,
& Palinscar, 1991; Collins, Brown & Newman 1990; Harel & Papert, 1990; Kafai, 1996).
It is also this meaningful learning that leads to conceptual change (Jonassen, 2006).
Sustainability alone is a complex problem (Elshof, 2008). It takes time to address
and solve the problem. Kahane (2004) states,
Simple problems with low complexity can be solved perfectly wellefficiently
and effectivelyusing processes that are piecemeal, backward looking, and
authoritarian. By contrast, highly complex problems can only be solved using
processes that are systemic, emergent and participatory, (p. 32)
The best instruction for sustainability involves meaningful change in student learning,
exemplary problems, and effective teaching (Filho, Evangelos & Pace 2008). Problems
related to sustainability do need to be integrated across subject matter and involve
students in multiple skills (Filho, Evangelos & Pace, 2008). Problem-based instruction
provides learners a better understanding of their learning. Jonassen (2004) states,
Students who memorize information for the test usually retain less than 10 percent
of the whole curriculum, so 10 percent of the whole curriculum (100 percent
assuming that the teacher or trainer can cover the whole curriculum) yields a 10
percent learning outcome (and is probably less than that). In a problem-oriented
curriculum, students may cover only 50 percent of the curriculum, but they
understand and remember 50 percent of what they learn, yielding a 25 percent
learning outcome, (p. 2)
18


The Design Process
Problem-based learning is effective for teaching architectural design (Eilouti,
2007). Design education is an approach that uses aspects of problem-based learning
(Gijselaers 1996). Characteristics of problem-based learning include ill-structured
problems based on integration of knowledge thus lending itself well to inform and
improve design education (Dabbagh & Dass, 2013). Design education and the design
process provide a framework with which to structure the learning environment when
learning to solve problems and comprise some of the same characteristics. Design
instruction also offers the opportunity of learning and problem solving to address a
technology environment of exponentially expanding information, needs of the
community and uncertainty in a rapidly changing society (Davis, 1999). Design is
inherently not an object, but rather it is a form of inquiry (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, &
Spilka, 1997). Design-based problems in which students participate often relate to their
lives, school, or community (Marschalek, 2008).
Students work through the design process as they attempt to solve problems.
Students are guided through the design process defined by Davis, Hawley, McMullan,
and Spilka (1997, p. 2) as, ... a creative counterpart to the scientific method, and it
presumes there is more than one right solution to any problem and many paths to each
alternative. The design process develops fluency in images, words and thinking
(Kimball, Stables, Wheeler, Wosniak, Kelly, 1991). Students learn to recognize and
understand that the problem really does exist and are willing to attempt to correct it. The
design process requires students get to know the problem, understanding the main issues
of the problem in order to define it. Once students are able to understand the problem,
19


they begin research into solutions. The research informs their ideas and they begin to
generate solutions to the problem. After examining and evaluating solutions, students
must select the best possible way to solve the problem. They then put their idea into
action by creating a prototype. Finally, students evaluate their design by determining the
effectiveness of a solution, thus making changes as needed. (See Figure 11.2 for a
diagram of the design process). While the process is cyclical it is also on-going,
requiring students to often go back to research and rework ideas. One of the major
differences between the design process and the scientific method is the former is the
cyclical nature. Students must evaluate and make changes throughout the process. They
also do not start with a hypothesis in the design process. Rather, they start with a
problem.
OENBUmQM OP
ALIBMUOnm MUHWB
(Kimball, Stables, Wheeler, Wosniak, Kelly, 1991)
Figure II.2 The Design Process
The design process is a cyclical process.
20


A simplified version of the design process is used with the students, (see figure II.3).
The simplified version is easier for students to understand and addresses the need for
continuous evaluation of ideas. Because the process is also cyclical, the terms are easier
for students to understand and evaluation of their ideas is on-going throughout the
project.
Literature Review
Design serves as a framework for instructional practices that guides students
through the problem solving process. Problem-based learning informs the role of the
instructor and role of the students. Design as an instructional framework is rather
progressive, particularly with a specific focus on reform (Roth, 1998). Design-based
instruction contains real life learning as well as activities that are collaborative and make
connections across disciplines (Brown, 1992). An important factor in design education
that is similar to problem-based learning (PBL) is its authenticity to real world tasks and
students assuming an identity as an architect. As a result of the connection to real life
problems students begin to perceive their actions related to a future career (Barab &
Dodge 2008). This connection to real life aides in developing life-long learning skills,
reasoning, and application of knowledge (Grabinger, Dunlap, & Duffield, 1997).
Dialogue and Learning
A key component to learning emphasized by both Vygotsky (1978) and Dewey
(1934) is the role of dialogue in the learning process. Dialogue, particularly language, is
a key to cognitive development, through common problem solving experiences
(Vygotsky, 1978). Students must engage in active learning through dialogue and
21


problem solving (Dewey, 1929). Dialogue originally occurs with those taking care of the
child, but as the child grows and develops he or she takes a larger role in problem
solving. Language becomes the primary tool of intellectual transformation as children
mature (Vygotsky, 1978). When children problem solve, they demonstrate attributes of
dialogue (Vygotsky, 1979 & Wertsch, 1980). Children ask questions and find answers
and internalize this discussion. Children often collaborate with an expert individual. In
the case of the classroom, it is most often the teacher or selective classmates. A
classroom contains continuous interaction between teachers and students, who are
defining and being defined by their learning experience (Wertsch, 1998). This allows
learners to participate in activities that are at a higher level than they would be able to
accomplish on their own.
Problem-based learning environments allow students to interact with the subject
matter and other learners, concepts defined in a successful Education for Sustainable
Development (ESD) program. Learning needs to occur in a situational context that
allows for interactions and struggles in thinking, either through individuals, artifacts,
ideas, tools or problems (Hung & Wong, 2000). Mishra and Girod (2006, p. 49) state,
At the heart of design is interplay between theory and practice, between constraints and
trade-offs, between designer and materials, and between designer and user/learner. It is
with this dialogue that the learner creates meanings, defines ideas and begins to
understand (Dewey, 1934). Students who interact with the subject matter are able to
make connections beyond the classroom. This kind of interaction creates an ideal
experience for the student.
22


Learning also occurs through the use of cultural tools (Vygotsky, 1978). He
states that Every function in the [individuals] cultural development appears twice: first,
on the social level, and later, on the individual level; the first, between people
(interpsychological), and then inside the child (intrapsychological) (Vygotsky, 1981b, p.
163). This function of cultural development allows for learning through large and small
group dialogue, decisions students must make in terms of sustainability while designing,
and potentially the individual decisions in sustainable choices the students make as
consumers. This form of learning is critical when dealing with sustainability issues due
to the fact that individuals have pre-existing knowledge that needs to be examined on a
deeper level for it to be altered (Shapka, Law & VanWynsberghe, 2007, p. 108).
Experiential Learning
Design instruction and sustainability education also draw on the historical
tradition of experiential learning introduced by Dewey. Students thrive when they are
able to participate in the curriculum (Dewey, 1938). Design based learning environments
allow students the ability to get involved in addressing the problem, thus creating an
experience toward a solution. People are impacted by their experience (Dewey, 1938).
Since students are impacted by their experiences, providing an opportunity for students to
challenge and question established patterns through hands-on experience is invaluable for
their continued growth. This is supported by Dewey (1938, p. 48) The formation of
enduring attitudes, likes and dislikes, may be and often is much more as more important
than the spelling lesson or lesson in geography or history that is learned. Education is a
continual construction of experience (1897/1938). Kolb and Kolb (2008, p. 4) state,
learning results from synergetic transactions between the person and the environment.
23


Stable and enduring patterns of human learning arise from consistent patterns of
transaction between the individual and his or her environment. This is further explained
by Mishra and Girod (2006) when they state,
As the individual acts on the environment, the environment also acts upon the
individual. Inquiry and learning, like design, are not simply about understanding
and assembling materials. They are fundamentally about ideas and transforming
oneself and the world through the process of working with those ideas, (p. 48)
Helping students understand sustainability and applying these concepts is an attempt at
establishing enduring attitudes. Design also requires that learners determine the essential
components of an idea and then represent those ideas (Mishra & Girod, 2006). Mishra
and Girod further state when students develop new ideas, they develop new ways of
understanding and acting within the world. An ideas means one is more fully alive with
thought, feeling, and action. Idea formation and creation goes beyond attainment of
information, rather it is empowering (Mishra & Girod, 2006).
This actual process of working toward understanding is also important. Kolb
(1984) presents a cyclical model of experiential learning, consisting of four stages (a)
concrete experience (b) reflective observation, (c) abstract conceptualization, and (d)
active experimentation. Developing solutions to a design-based problem requires
students to apply the research and understanding they have developed through these
processes. Creating a proposal for a sustainable home creates an experience for students
to question their current paradigms. Students must research, propose, experiment and
evaluate their solutions as a part of the process. Kolb (1948, p. 38) states, learning is the
process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience. It is
24


through this experience that students are led to find sustainable solutions to current issues
in sustainability. With these solutions, students will learn to understand and apply
sustainability concepts beyond the classroom.
Design instruction offers the opportunity for dialogue within the problem. It
offers the opportunity for students to make choices between theory and practice,
constraints and trade-offs, materials and design, as well as the designer and users (Mishra
& Girod, 2006). With this ongoing discussion and dialogue, meanings and artifacts are
defined and understood (Dewey, 1934). Students must also understand the essential
qualities of an idea and represent their ideas for an audience. New ideas are more than
thinking about the world in a different way; they are about having a different way of
being in the world (Mishra & Girod, 2006). To have an idea is to be more fully alive
with thought, feeling, and action (Dewey, 1934). It is to have an energy-for-action that
is directed by thought and fueled by emotion (Mishra & Girod, 2006). The having of a
new idea is more than the acquisition or application of information. It is critical to have
students work with ideas that are inherently empowering and generative (Mishra &
Girod, 2006, p 48).
Relationship to Sociocultural Concepts of Learning
Challenging students to problem solve is further supported by the theoretical work
of Vygotsky. Children learn through participation in activities and within social
processes (Vygotsky, 1978). Design-based activities allow students a forum to
participate in a problem through experimentation, interaction with others, and the
opportunity to try out multiple solutions. Students are playing non-traditional roles in
this project. They are the researchers, developers, and creators of solutions. They work
25


in cooperative groups and as a result are developing critical thinking and conversational
skills. Adults need to engage children in tasks that challenge them, initially too difficult,
then provide the necessary support to aid in accomplishing the task. This is often defined
as the zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978). Instructors can help guide
students through a task, continually helping students improve their skills. Project-based
and problem-based learning environments aide students in developing knowledge as
needed to solve problems. Problems are often above their current skill level or
development level. The teacher can facilitate student learning through the problem. In
turn, students will ask questions or attempt to gain knowledge based on information they
believe to be missing (Vygotsky, 1978). The ideal learning situation is tailoring
instruction to the needs of the student based on an individuals ability and cognition level
(Hung, 2001).
Students will also seek out experiences in the zone of proximal development that
can be enhanced through cooperative rather than individual tasks (Scardamalia &
Bereiter, 1991). Children working in cooperative environments are thus creating a social
context. In these contexts mutual relationships are required for learning, knowing, and
understanding to take place. As students participate in design problems, students must
organize and analyze information. They must work both independently and within teams
to create viable solutions to problems as well as conduct research. Students must present
ideas, negotiate, defend and compromise in the process. As students participate in these
kinds of interactions, they are developing, new intellectual tools and patterns of
collaboration (Engstrom, 1999, p. 31). They are also creating and participating in
experiences.
26


Students are using various tools, but also adapting and changing the tools as
needed to complete the tasks. Transformation of the tools and how they are used and
interplay between the various elements constantly lead to the various new outcomes and
knowledge being created (Engstrom, 1999). Cultural Historical Activity Theory
(CHAT) expands on the model: .. .Actions and the goals they accomplish are the
dominant features in human consciousness during active engagement with our world
(Roth & Lee, 2007, p. 201). Activity that is directed toward goals, in the case of design
education, goes beyond activities that keep students busy. Design activities allow
students to become involved and engaged beyond the classroom. In design-based
classrooms, students are required to work and think like designers. These activities, Roth
and Lee (2008) believe, would promote the creation and replication of culture and its
connection to the built world, thus sustaining the culture and as well as the individual
(2008). The students, like graphic designers or industrial designers, are subjects of
activity systems collectively understanding the motive and goal (Engstrom, 1999).
Problems are authentic and require an understanding across disciplines. Students
working in a collaborative team will construct knowledge in an educational setting. The
teacher functions as a guide with the learners through the process (Davis, Hawley,
McMullan, & Spilka, 1997).
Students learn in the context of their cultural environment, through social
interactions and experiences, and are continuously learning. Bereiter (1994) has defined
this process as unintentional learning. It often means in the context of the classroom that
students arent always learning the objectives teachers have set forth in their lessons; on
the contrary in many cases they are learning more about the structure of school and
27


teacher expectations (Smith, 1998). This is partly due to the focus on skills students can
demonstrate on achievement tests (Bereiter, 1994). Tasks and skills are often
disconnected from one another. Students study science in one classroom and then move
onto a math or language arts classroom, with little discussion of the relations between the
subject matter. Design connects learning across disciplines and domains (Friedman,
2000). Students must also draw on a variety of resources to create a variety of solutions
to problems (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, & Spilka, 1997). As students participate in
design problems, they are intentionally learning since they are building knowledge
through experience and research.
Design as Inquiry
Often thought of for use only in an art classrooms, design-based problems are a
catalyst for learning (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, & Spilka, 1997). Design tasks and the
design process focus on real world projects and problems that often connect learning to
the community. Design-based tasks allow the educator flexibility in methodology, such
as cooperative groups and technology as a tool for learning. Design offers the
opportunity of learning and problem solving to address a technology environment of
exponential expansion of information, needs of the community, as well as the ability to
address uncertainty in a rapidly changing society (Davis, 1999).
Design surrounds us. The homes we live in, products we use, information we
consume, and even the environment we interact in are all designed and shaped (Davis,
Hawley, McMullan, and Spilka, 1997). The design of objects is not new. Humans have
created tools and objects for thousands of years to address problems. However, viewing
design as an activity is a fairly recent phenomenon (Naveiro & de Souza Pereira, 2008).
28


As we have become a wealthier society, design has taken on new importance. A larger
range of goods and services is available and in larger quantities than ever before
(Friedman, 1991). Societies make choices in the items purchased, in how their time is
spent or even in the information consumed; each choice is often determined by their
value system. Since design has produced a more comfortable lifestyle, it has not been of
little cost. The products consumed and the environments created have come at a societal
and environmental cost. However, it is also design that can create solutions. Design can
and will contribute to the future and is one of the fastest growing industries (Pink, 2007).
The subject of design has been a focus of technology education in the United
Kingdom and is becoming a focus in the United States as well (Lewis, 2008). Design
allows for open-ended problems with multiple solutions and strategies for solving
problems (Lewis, 2008). Optimal problem-based learning lends itself to a focus on real
world problems. Design is a process that requires thoughtful planning (Friedman, 1991).
This process requires the understanding of several domains: the human world, learning,
artifacts, and the environment (Friedman, 1991). Design and design problems force
students to think across disciplines for creative solutions (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, and
Spilka, 1997). According to Marschalek, design can be categorized into four basic areas:
(a) Object design is the design of everyday things, (b) Information design is the creation
of web pages, brochures, and other media, (c) Environment design is of places and
spaces such as parks, landscapes, and interiors, (d) Experience design is the design of
events such museum exhibits, theme parks, concerts and more (2008). For the purpose of
the research students are participating in environment design.
29


Students in design-based classrooms engaged in higher-order thinking skills more
often than in traditional classrooms (Walmsley, 2003). This is further proven by Mishra
and Girod when they state,
Design activities create opportunities to learn about the nature of inquiry itself.
First, design forces students to pay attention to the process and consequences of
their actions. Second, students learn to appreciate the nonlinear, often messy
nature of inquiry. Design tasks are often ill-structured and afford many viable
solutions. This perspective on knowledge and inquiry is quite different from the
epistemological illusion typically found in classrooms, where problems are well-
defined with clear-cut solutions. (2006, p. 48)
Design is a social activity that requires students to communicate and understand
the experiences of others. Students must generate and negotiate ideas while they share
their knowledge with others to accomplish the task (Mishra & Girod, 2006). Even more
important is that design requires students to gather data, conduct research, and represent
their findings. This forces them to go beyond the classroom walls.
Knowledge Building
Learning and the creation of knowledge is defined by Bereiter (1994) with the
term knowledge building. The creation of knowledge is often seen in creative businesses
and among practicing scientists (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996). Knowledge building by
students themselves is the most effective for transformational change and growth.
Students who actively build knowledge specifically in design are able to define gaps in
understanding and build comprehension for themselves (Eilouti, 2007). Schools and
30


classrooms that emphasize the building of knowledge are highly successful. Classrooms
that foster transformational thought for all participants, teachers and students alike are
exceptional classrooms (Bereiter, 1994). Knowledge building classrooms focus on
authentic tasks, facilitate communication and emphasize the contributions of those
involved rather than competition. Learning tasks that occur over time also provide a rich
learning environment (Barab, Dodge, Thomas, Jackson, & Tuzun, 2007). Students must
also develop skills to enable them to work together and apply cultural knowledge to
specific activities (Hakkarainen, 2009). When tasks are structured with the learners as
the focus, students have the opportunity to be knowledge builders. They are able to build
and create connections that lead to conceptual change. Inquiry-based tasks that are
student directed increase knowledge building (Barab et al., 2007). It is difficult to
separate the knowing and doing from the creative aspect of practice (Hakkarainen, 2009).
Students are also building expertise as they follow the design process. The
building of expertise requires tasks to get more progressively complex (Bereiter, 1994).
Inquiry-based tasks that are student directed increase knowledge building (Barab et al.,
2007). Learning can also be defined by Lave and Wegner (1991) by knowing. Knowing
is an act that is not static, but rather interactive. Knowing requires interacting with others
over time. This idea is further described by Barab, Hay, and Lynch (2001, p. 68),
Becoming knowledgeably skillful, from this perspective, is characterized by an
individuals increasing potential to build and transform relations with the material,
psychological, and social world. Because design-based problems are authentic, students
motivated by real world problems will easily make connections.
31


Scaffolds for Problem-Based Learning
Middle school students often struggle with research. Scaffolding can be used as a
tool to help students construct knowledge (Cho & Jonassen, 2002). Scaffolding as a tool
allows instructors to help students organize information and build connections.
Scaffolding can be defined as metacognitive strategies, conceptual, or procedural aid that
enable students to develop a skill that might be difficult for them to complete unaided
(Hamilton et all, 1999; Wood, Bruner, & Ross, 1976). The goal of scaffolding is to meet
the needs of students at specific points in a problem and often requires more capable
facilitators (Saye & Brush, 2002). The context of PBL supports collaborative knowledge
construction with the use of scaffolding and can change how students interact with each
other through transformation of the process and students articulation of thoughts (Kim et
al., 2007; Lin et al., 2003). Scaffolding helped college and middle school students
distinguish between good and poor arguments (Belland), approach argumentation
effectively (Belland), and produce coherent arguments (Bell, 1997; Cho & Jonassen,
2002).
Scaffolding is also a form of dialogue. It is this dialogue that allows the learner to
participate in increasingly difficult activities that they may not fully understand
(Palincsar, 1986). Palinscar (1986, p.75) further states, The hallmark of scaffolded
instruction is its interactive nature. There is ongoing interplay between teacher and
learner in the joint completion of a task. This is the teaching and learning process
(Wertsch, 1980).
32


Graphic Organizers and Learning
The value of graphic organizers to enhance learning in design education is an
important outcome of this study. New learning builds on previous knowledge and
experience, and it benefits students become highly aware of their existing knowledge
before embarking on a new learning experience. Like Dewey, Ausubel (1968, p. 217)
believes that experience is a factor in learning: "Existing cognitive structure, that is an
individual's organization, stability, and clarity of knowledge in a particular subject matter
field at any given time, is the principal factor influencing the learning and retention of
meaningful new material." Ausubel further states, It is also in its own right the most
significant independent variable influencing the learner's capacity for acquiring more new
knowledge in the same field" (1968, p. 130). Therefore, a cognitive structure that is
clear and well organized facilitates the learning and retention of new information (Ivie,
1998, p. 35).
Graphic organizers are one set of cognitive structures or tools that help students
organize information and aid in creating and building knowledge. Graphic organizers
offer visual models that equip teachers and students with tools, concepts, and language to
organize, understand, and apply information (Gallavan & Kottler, 2007) as well as assist
learners in organizing information so that is understandable and useful for the learner
(Meyer & Stull, 2007). Graphic organizers allow students the opportunity to guide their
learning, create meaning, and use their information with others (MacKinnon & Deppell,
2005). Using graphic organizers, whether student generated or predetermined helps
students understand new information (Mayer & Stull, 2007). The degree of difficulty and
33


level of the learner do play a significant role in the most effective method, student
generated or a predetermined organizer (Mayer & Stull, 2007).
34


CHAPTER III
METHODS AND PROCEDURES
Methods
The main research question guiding this study is: How can a home design project
impact middle school students understanding and appreciation of sustainability?
Students were given a design problem: They must design a sustainable home for a family
based on a specific location. Students worked through the design process. Students
conducted research to understand the problem in depth from its importance to making
their design sustainable.
The study employed an action research format. Action research is a systematic
approach for teachers and other school related personnel with an interest in teaching and
learning to conduct research and gather data about student progress (Mills, 2003). Action
research examines a problem systematically and relates practice to theoretical
considerations (OBrien, 2001). Action research conducted by teachers offers a valuable
contribution by reflective practitioners (Suter, 2006). The use of action research by
instructors allows for the applied use of an intellectual model that rests in continuous
improvement of teaching techniques and student learning (Young, Rapp, & Murphy,
2010). Action research allows the instructor to examine methods and increase knowledge
toward improving classroom curriculum and learning (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1982).
Teachers can and need to take an important role in research. Teachers as
researchers, Banks states, become not only active in improving the learning experiences
of their pupils but also critical of educational policies, materials or syllabus which affect
their work (2003, p. 314). Banks further discusses that when teachers take an active role
35


in research and data collection, it is more reliable and any decisions made will be more
valid (2002, p. 315). While the focus of action research is not on hypothesis testing, it
does meet the criteria of the scholarship through the systematic reflection on teaching
and learning made public (Illinois State University, 2012).
Data collection included both qualitative and quantitative measures. The
quantitative aspect evaluated student growth in their understanding of sustainability from
the beginning to the end of the assignment using a pre-and post-test. The qualitative
component examined students construction of knowledge related to sustainability,
actions related to their application of sustainability in their designs, and connections they
made beyond the project. Data were gathered from student final products, student-
created concept maps, student reflections, architects feedback and teacher observations.
School Setting and Participants
This study was carried out in a middle school of 7th and 8th grade students in a
large suburban district. The school population is largely middle to upper middle class
students with some diversity in respect to socioeconomics and culture. The study was
conducted in the technology classrooms. The technology class was an elective class that
ran for a trimester or a total of 12 weeks. The specific classes being studied were two 8th
grade technology classes. The classes studied consisted of two groups, each of twenty-
five to twenty-seven 8th grade students ranging in ages from 12-14 years. Two students
declined to be part of the study. The total number of students participating in the study
was 50. One difficult issue occurred during the course of the unit studied. Eight of the
50 students were absent for a week during the unit. Four of those students were absent
the final week of the unit.
36


Instructional Practice
The project began with the use of the design process. A simplified version of the
process called the Design Loop by Hutchinson & Karsnitz (1994) was used with the
students (see figure III.3). Students begin to understand a problem in stage one. Students
must recognize a problem really does exist and be willing to attempt to correct it. In
stage two, students must really get to know the problem. It is essential that students
understand the main issues of the problem in order to define it. Here they begin to
conduct research about the problem.
trvin$ i eMttxt
Figure III.3 Design Loop
The design loop simplifies the design process, making it more accessible to students.
In stage three, students begin to conduct research related to possible solutions.
They then begin to formulate ideas to solve the problem and search out multiple
solutions. In stage four students begin to formulate and plan out their ideas. They also
37


must evaluate their ideas during this stage and make adjustments as needed. Stage five
requires the students to provide a detailed solution to their problem. Students must select
their best idea to address the problem. In stage six students begin making a plan for
creating their final solution. In stage seven the students work to create their final
proposals to the design problem. This stage also requires them to conduct further
research as needed and adjust proposal accordingly. In stage eight students evaluate and
reflect on their work. This can be done individually, in groups, or with professionals in
the field. Students must determine effectiveness of solutions and effects of results.
The project began with the first component of the design process: detailing the
problem as outlined using the design loop. Students began this part of the project by
watching the video, The Story of Stuff, www.storyofstuff.org, (Leonard, 2007). They
discussed the current paradigms seen in the video and how these were created. They then
discussed the implications of a different paradigm offered in the video. Students were
given homework to work directly with their family on completing the quiz,
www.myfootprint.org. The quiz asked questions related to lifestyle choices they and
their families make with regard to food, transportation, travel, and their home and energy
use. Completion of the quiz resulted in each student receiving a planet score based on his
or her use of resources. Students discussed the results the following day in class. I asked
the students what questions were asked and put them into categories on the board.
Students were then presented with the assignment of designing a sustainable home.
Students were asked why these categories were important and if these would help with
research related to their project.
During the second stage of the design process, students used the categories from
38


the myfootprint quiz to create a graphic organizer of two column notes (see Figure III.4)
to guide their research. Figure 4 demonstrates an example of the graphic organizer.
Students worked directly with the teacher librarian to complete the research. The
students were given two websites to start their research: www.dreamgreenhomes.com,
www.ecofriendlyhouses.net. After the students had a basic understanding of the
vocabulary involved in sustainability, the teacher librarian had students practice search
strategies for searching and evaluating websites. Students then had to find two more
websites to add to their notes using skills practiced with the librarian upon introduction to
the research component of the lesson. Some of the more useful sites listed by students
included: http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/ecofriendly-ways-build-house-
3159.html, http://www.childrenoftheearth.org/green-building-sustainable-homes/green-
homes-sustainable-living-index.htm, or http://www.nrel.gov/sustainable_nrel/rsf.html.
2 Column Notes
Factors Specific Examples with Explanation
Energy

Heating/Cooling

Food

Water

Transportation

Furnishings
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Materials

Figure III.4 2 Column Notes
2 column notes are a graphic organizer to aid students in organizing their research
data.
I guided the students through the research using the following questions: (a) How did
the designers address sustainability in the examples given?, (b) what are the common
factors the homes and websites addressed to make the home sustainable?, (c) What
questions did the website www.mvfootprint.org ask?, and (d) How could these factors be
addressed in the design? Students discussed their findings in a large group discussion
format and developed criteria for a sustainable home design.
In the next stage, exploring possibilities, students examined green buildings in
use. The film Green Architecture: Environmentally Friendly Housing chronicled the
process of a solar home design competition for university students. The film included
some of the items in students research, but also demonstrated a few factors not listed on
the websites students viewed. Notable to the students was the use of recycled materials.
One home used recycled steel of varying colors for the exterior of the home. Another
factor was the placement of the home, primarily north and south to take advantage of the
lighting and cooling. East and west-facing homes tend to heat up too much in the
summer, forcing the use of more air conditioning. A third proposal students reflected on
was the use of solar blinds. The students had difficulty thinking of the use of solar
beyond solar panels so this innovation helped begin the discussion of incorporating
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sustainability into the design of the home. The architects would later discuss this
concept.
The class also examined architects and buildings that address sustainability. The
California Academy of Sciences, a sustainable museum and research facility, was one of
the examples. The building used the sand dug up at the site for dune restoration, as well
as recycled denim insulation and a sod roof. Students also read and discussed a Chicago
design competition for low income housing that required proposals to be sustainable.
The students commented on using wood from certified forests, building rooms of
standard building material lengths, designing for air movement so as to eliminate the
need for air conditioning, and using large amounts of insulation.
Finally, students examined the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry.
These architects used sustainability concepts before these were popular in architectural
designs. Notable to the students was using local materials and materials left over from
construction sites. These architects planned their design around the existing location.
The fourth stage, refining ideas, required sketches of design proposals. Students
used their notes and resources to plan and begin to sketch out design possibilities. They
had to design a front and birds eye view of their home and the location for which they
were designing for the dwelling. Students had three locations to choose from, the
mountains, suburbs, or the revitalizing neighborhood area near downtown. They also had
to list the sustainable factors addressed and how they were specifically addressing them.
The fifth stage, detailing a solution, required a meeting with the instructor.
Students met with me to discuss their designs and sustainability features. Most students
made changes to their designs and then further discussed their changes with their
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instructor.
The sixth and seventh stages, planning the making and then creating, required
students to build a prototype in Google SketchUp. Students worked to transfer their
sketches to the computer. Students could choose to watch several self-paced tutorials to
understand the process of building from the outside in or to start working in the software.
The students had worked in SketchUp in their technology classes the previous year and
had some knowledge of the tools, but did not understand how to design a structure from
the outside to the inside. Students had to transfer and apply their knowledge of the
software to develop their idea.
Stage eight, evaluation was the most effective component of the project. Students
met with two guest architects to discuss their designs. This necessitated having to take
feedback and make adjustments as needed. In this step students often returned to their
sketches and did additional research. When the designs were complete, students had to
write concept statements about their designs. The paragraphs they wrote discussed their
goal, design features and reasoning behind the sustainable factors. Throughout the
project, students periodically added ideas to their concept maps as well.
Students created concept maps of their learning throughout the process using the
mind tool software, Inspiration. Lesh and Doerr (2003) define models as,
conceptual systems (consisting of elements, relations, and rules governing
interactions) that are expressed using visual notation systems, and that are used to
construct, describe or explain the behavior of other system(s) perhaps so that the
other system can be manipulated or predicted intelligently, (p. 10)
Models allow students the ability to construct their own knowledge and can be used to
42


assess student learning (Jonassen, 2006). Learners that build and change their models
construct knowledge that leads to conceptual change and understanding of what they are
learning (Jonassen, 2006). Concept maps included the identification of important
features, such as sustainability and design, supporting information of each of the
concepts, links between them, and a reflection on the process. As part of their concept
maps, students explained their sustainability choices and why they used it in their home.
They discussed the feedback they received from the architects and how it impacted their
design. They made connections between the architects feedback and their sustainability
choices. They discussed the easy and difficult aspects of their designs. They defined
sustainability as it related to their life and what reflect on the class project.
Research and Procedures
Data collection was comprised of two data components, both quantitative and
qualitative, to aid in understanding how students used the design process to inform their
designs and their understanding of sustainability in an effort to improve instruction.
Qualitative Data
Qualitative data included teacher observations, evaluating student concept maps
and the final design solution, architects feedback, and student reflections. The final
product included the design proposal and a paragraph explaining the sustainability factors
used in the design of the home.
The concept maps included important factors and relationships defined by
students. These provided information on: (a) the students understanding of
sustainability: (b) the solutions students attempted in their designs, (c) their reasoning
43


behind their choices, and (d) a snapshot of how students began to solve sustainability
issues. Concept maps offered a snapshot of the deeper understanding of how learners
constructed their knowledge as it relates to the need for sustainability and what
connections they made beyond the classroom. Concept maps were evaluated using a
rubric (see figure III.5).
Concept Map Rubric
Benchmark Criteria Example in Map
Students demonstrate an understanding of sustainability factors and use in design for specific location. Map demonstrates relevant information from notes, sketches, and other resources. Specific factors and examples included Design idea explained Demonstrated goal

Students evaluate idea effectiveness of design for location. Map demonstrates links, concepts and reflections that students are able to refine design and identify criteria or evaluate factors that meet needs of design. Links between concepts described Factors evaluated for effectiveness and changes made as needed

Students make connections beyond classroom. Map demonstrates several links or connections with lifestyle choices. Concepts provide specific examples of lifestyle change Reflection provides insight into student
Figure III.5 Assessing Understanding of Sustainability
The rubric was used to evaluate student understanding demonstrated in concept maps.
Final products were analyzed specifically identifying how students addressed
sustainability in the designs. Students needed to demonstrate the sustainable factors
determined in the research. Factors included, energy, heating and cooling, water,
transportation, materials, and food. These factors acted as keywords-in-context codes
44


when analyzing the data. Using keywords-in-context allowed understanding of students
meaning of the words and to determine the degree of student understanding. This also
indicated which specific sustainability factors students addressed in their designs, why
they chose those factors, and specifically how students addressed those factors in their
designs.
Classroom observations were also recorded in a daily journal during and at the
end of each class. Observations and subsequent recording included three components, (a)
interactions that occurred with students, including student questions: (b) teacher feedback
from students questions and, (c) how students used feedback in the designs.
The last component of data collection was meeting with the students. The teacher
met directly with the students to discuss their grades and the ideas in their project.
Students reflected on several questions in small groups: (a) What were the goals of the
design? (b) What can you tell me about your final design? (c) How did the architects
help you with the design? (d) What was difficult and/or easy about this project? This
data was added to students concept statements about their designs. The answers to these
questions were recorded and then analyzed using the keywords in context as well as
looking for patterns among student answers.
Quantitative Data
Pre and post-tests were administered to get an overview of student understanding
of their learning through the unit. The goal was to compare student growth, examine the
student understanding of sustainability concepts, and assess learning through the design
process. From the beginning to the end of the project the data answered how much
growth occurred. Toward that end, students received both a multiple choice and short
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answer test of a very limited number of questions. Students completed the test on-line.
Student answers were kept confidential. The dependent variable was the post tests on
sustainability. Questions on the pre-and post-test included:
Pre-test:
How do you define sustainability?
Why are sustainable practices important?
What choices do you currently make to live more sustainably?
Post-test
After completing the design task, define sustainability.
Why are sustainable practices important?
What factors did you add to your home design to make it more sustainable?
After completing this unit, what life style choices did you make or are thinking
about making as it relates to sustainability?
A scoring rubric used to guide data collection was included in Figure III.6. A colleague
and I evaluated student response to the questions. Student answers were then correlated
using keywords to analyze for similarities and differences in student responses. These
were then grouped accordingly. Having two people evaluating student response ensured
greater reliability both with the rubric and keyword analysis.
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Pre and Post-Test Scoring Rubric
CRITERIA EXCEED MEETS MISSED/NOT YET

Benchmark #1
Definition of Sustainability Definition address the following: The allocation of resources does not allow for depletion, maintenance of the environment, and conservation. Definition meets one of the requirements: The allocation of resources does not allow for depletion, maintenance of the enviromnent, and conservation. Definition does not meet either of the requirements or uses the terms: eco- friendly or green ideas.
Importance of sustainable practices Listed three reasons for why sustainable practices are important. Listed two reasons for why sustainable practices are important. Listed one reason for why sustainable practice is important.
Benchmark #2
Sustainable factors included in design. Addressed sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, water, food, transportation, furnishings Addressed all but two sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, water, food, transportation, furnishings Addressed two sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, water, food, transportation, furnishings
Benchmark #3
Lifestyle changes Offers at least three options as to lifestyle choices that have changes since lesson Offers two options as to lifestyle choices that have changes since lesson Offers one option as to lifestyle choices that have changes since lesson

Figure III.6 Scoring Rubric
Evaluation of student answers was completed using rubric. A cross analysis by the
school librarian and instructor was used to ensure reliability.
Student answers were also evaluated using key words in context. Key words in
context provided a framework for commonalities among student responses.
The internal validity of the study was supported by linking quantitative evidence
of student learning to qualitative examples. Pre-and Post-tests offered a snapshot of
student growth when analyzed using the rubric, Figure III.6. However data mined from
student reflection and concept maps demonstrated specific examples of how students
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used sustainability concepts in their design and why. This same data provided insight
into specific ways of how students began to rethink applying sustainability concepts to
their own life. The students gave specific examples of lifestyle changes they made after
completion of the unit in both reflections, post-test answers, and some students added it
as part of their concept maps.
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CHAPTER IV
FINDINGS
Research Findings
The main question guiding this study was, How can a home design project impact
middle school students understanding and appreciation of sustainability? Before under
taking the study I thought the students would learn problem solving, apply research, and
use knowledge gained in math and in the project. The results demonstrated a greater
degree of understanding and application of sustainability concepts and a change in
student perceptions than previously understood. As the unit developed from simply
completing a project to the use of the design process to guide problem solving, student
conceptual change in understanding sustainability became of larger importance. The
research into student understanding of sustainability followed a similar path from simple
to a more complex understanding. Six sub-questions guided the research: (a) What are
middle school students, attitudes and understanding of sustainability before and after a
design unit?, (b) Why are sustainable practices important?, (c) After completion has the
project impacted students ideas about personal lifestyle choices in terms of
consumption?, (d) What sustainable solutions do students propose for home design?, (e)
How do students approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the architecture
project?, (f) How did students apply sustainability ideas in their design and why did they
make those specific choices?
Student Understanding of Sustainability
The first question, What are middle school students attitudes and understanding
of sustainability before and after a design unit? was examined using pre-and post-tests.
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Students completed a pre-and post-test in an effort to understand overall student growth
regarding the basic concept of sustainability. A rubric, figure III.6 shown in Chapter 3
was used to evaluate both pre-and post-test responses. Pre-and post-tests were evaluated
by the teacher and librarian to maintain objectivity in evaluation. Pre-test results
demonstrate students had limited to no understanding of the concept of sustainability.
Question one, How do you define sustainability?, 48 (96%) of the students received a
rating of missed or not/yet based on the rubric. Thirty-three (66%) students defined
sustainability as something durable, 11 (22%) defined it as something that can sustain
life, 2 (4%) defined it as materials needed to survive where you live, and 2 (4%) had no
clue. Two (4%) of the students were able define sustainability as the use and reuse of
resources wisely and to keep them from ending in a landfill, receiving a meets rating
based on the pre and post-test rubric.
Post-test scores, How do you define sustainability?, showed considerable
growth in student understanding. Thirty (60%) of the students were able to meet at least
one objective of the definition. Those 30 students defined sustainability as not harming
the ability to live in the environment and/or not taking away from the environment.
Twelve (24%) students gave specific examples of sustainability practices and were able
to define it with two or more components from the rubric, thus receiving a rating of
exceeds according to the rubric. Four (12.5%) students gave specific examples of
sustainability and two (4%) specifically defined it as a balance in the use of resources,
receiving an exceeds rating.
Concept maps also demonstrated student understanding of sustainability. All of
the students (100%) were able to define and apply sustainability as it related to their
50


home design. Seven (14%) students explained sustainability as it related to their home
design with specific examples such as, The location greatly impacts the design. We
choose durable materials that would blend in with the location since we are in the
mountains. Ten (20%) were able to explain that they designed their home to conserve
water and energy for sustainability purposes. Specifically, Our smaller home design
uses less energy, or We attempted to design a home that uses less water and energy.
Twenty-students (44%) explained specific sustainability concepts they addressed in their
homes. These varied by location and student goal. One group specifically addressed
why they choose solar energy, We used solar to address energy use in the house.
Another stated they used maximum insulation to impact heating and cooling. Eleven
(22%) students all had a wide range in their explanations for sustainability in their homes
ranging from specific design elements to practicing sustainability as a lifestyle.
Importance of Sustainability Factors
Question two Why are sustainable practices important? was also difficult for
the students on the pre-test. Forty-six students (92%) were not able to meet the
expectation of listing two or more reasons why sustainability practices are important,
there by receiving a not yet rating and four receiving a meets rating. Student responses
were similar to the definition of sustainability. They reasoned the durability was why
sustainability was important. Twenty-seven (54%) students stated sustainable practices
were important, for things to last longer. These students believed sustainability as
something durable rather than use of resources. Ten (20%) students reasoned it was
important to sustaining life or sustaining an object. Seven (14%) answers varied from
having no idea to it is just important with no reasoning. Six (12%) students were able
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to correctly address two reasons sustainability practices were important.
Post-test results showed a large amount of growth. Twenty-three (46%) students
received a meets rating, up from three students on the pre-tests. Seventeen (34%)
students received a rating of exceeds compared with one student on the pre-test and ten
(20%) students received a not yet rating compared with forty-six on the pre-test. Twenty-
four (48%) students reasoned that sustainable practices were important for a healthy
environment and planet. This desired outcome included the need for less pollution in
order for future generations to have good environment in which to live. Twenty two
(44%) students reasoned it was important to use resources wisely and to allow for future
generations to also have resources available. Three of these students felt sustainability
practices were important because there is a growing population on the planet, which
would limit available resources. Three (6%) believed it was important to rethink current
practices in terms of home design and construction and one (2%) believed it was
important to save and conserve energy. Students made steady progress from reasoning
that sustainability was not only about sustaining life but also the wise use of resources,
allowing for the health of future generations.
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Table IV.l demonstrates student growth. Table IV.l Pre and Post-Test Data
The table compares pre and post-test growth.
Question Pre-Test Percentage Break-down of Post-Test Percentage Break-down of Growth
Meeting or answers Meeting or Answers Percentage
Exceeding Exceeding
Definition of 2: Meets 4% 33 (66%): durability 20 exceeds 40% 30(60%): not 100%
Sustainability 48: 96% 11(22%): 30 meets 60% harming meets or
missed/no sustain life environment exceeds,
tyet 2(4%): survival 12(24%):
2(4%): no clue defined following 96%
2(4%): using resources rubric growth
wisely 4(12.5%): specific example 2(4%):balance of
resources
Importance 46 92% 27(54%): last 17 exceeds 34% 24(48%): healthy 80% meets
of missed/no longer/durability 23 meets 46% environment and or exceeds
Sustainability tyet 10(20%): sustaining 10 not yet 20% plant
Practices 4 meets or 8% life 22(44%): 72%
exceeds 7(14%): no idea or just preserve resources Growth
that it is important for future
6(12%): able to generations
address why 3(6%):
sustainability was home design and
important building 1(2%): conserve energy
Change in 27 not yet 54% 27(54%): doing one or 25 exceeds 50% 25(50%): 84% meets
Lifestyle 13 meets nothing to address 17 meets 3 or more or exceeds
10 26% sustainability 8 not yet 34% practices
exceeds 13(26%): 16% 17(34%): 2 38%
20% 2 practices practices overall
10(20%): 3 or more 8(6%): doing one growth
practices or nothing to address
sustainability
Data analysis of concept statements also showed considerable student reflection in
the importance of addressing sustainability. One reflected, Designing the home has
proved rather challenging at times, but has enlightened me to the idea of trying to live
environmentally conscious so that our planet is livable for everyone. A student stated,
This project helped me understand what kind of house I might like to have in the
future. Some had simpler reflections, We must adjust our way of life to live more
sustainably, or I started to think about my consumption habits. Another response
from the students was, These ideas are very important because it can help save the earth,
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increase peoples health, and create a better world for future generations. Lastly, one
student wrote, Sustainable practices make the planet a healthier place to live. Students
were not asked in the concept statements to reflect on the project, but those who did
demonstrated insight as to why they believed sustainable practices were important.
Changes in Lifestyle Choices
The third research question was After completing the project, has it impacted
students ideas about personal lifestyle choices in terms of consumption? The data from
pre-and post-test student responses demonstrated transfer of their project experience to
their own personal lives. Prior to the start of the unit, pre-test results demonstrated that
27 (54%) of the students offered one or no options in lifestyle choices in terms of
sustainability, receiving a not yet rating. Thirteen (26%) students offered two specific
options of sustainability practices that they currently make, receiving a meets rating, and
ten (20%) students offered three or more options, receiving an exceeds rating.
Post-test results demonstrated significant growth. Twenty-five (50%) students
actually began to practice at least three specific lifestyle choices related to sustainability.
Seventeen (34%) students began two specific practices and eight (16%) students had one
sustainable practice. Eight (6%) students did not make any choices that were different.
Students specific practices ranged from recycling, to conservation of water, to
conservation of energy.
Data mined from student reflections revealed similar information. Forty-one
(82%) students said they started to make changes. Those changes most often included
water conservation such as shorter showers and not brushing teeth with the water
running, cited by 30 (60%) students. Energy conservation was cited by ten (20%)
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students, specifically turning off lights or unplugging appliances and equipment when not
in use. Ten (20%) students also cited food choices such as buying local products and/or
trying to buy products with less packaging. Recycling was also a large component.
When surveying the class prior to the assignment, teacher observation notes indicated
that less than 30% of the students in the class recycled, while upon completion of the
project 40% said they were trying to recycle. Walking and biking to school were also
cited by four (8%) students as ways to conserve after the project. No students cited this
in the pre-test. Three (6%) students said they did nothing different. Interestingly, these
same students felt it was too expensive to alter lifestyle patterns. These same three
preferred purchasing solar panels and wind turbines for energy, rather than conserving by
turning off lights and/or unplugging appliances when not in use. They reasoned that they
needed to add things to their home, rather than consume less, which was often part of the
discussion. Six (12%) of the students said they would employ sustainable practices in the
future when they were living out of their parents home. They stated that they would add
things to their own home, such as solar, insulation and energy efficient windows. These
students also felt sustainability often required adding stuff to their home rather than
altering some lifestyle choices. The difference in numbers indicates several students had
multiple answers.
Since students were creating a house from scratch, it was difficult for some to
think of how to transfer what is discussed and applied in class to specifics in their own
life. Examples for specific lifestyle changes were specifically discussed in the Story of
Stuff movie, the myfootprint quiz, and accompanying class discussions. Specific
examples given in these sources ranged from lowering consumption rates to recycling.
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Water conservation was often cited as a factor students started to address, and specifically
taking shorter showers, using only what is needed, not irrigating landscaping, and turning
off water while brushing teeth. Energy conservation included turning of lights, lowering
the thermostat in winter and raising it in summer, as well as using renewable energy if
possible. Food conservation included buying locally produced goods. However many of
the examples provided in the resources were seen in student reflections and post-test
answers.
Student Proposed Sustainable Solutions
The fourth question, What sustainable solutions did students propose to home
design? Students answered this question on multiple levels. Students were required to
complete a concept map of their designs. One of the components of the concept map
required students to reflect on the sustainability factors used and why they were used, as
well as the goals of their design. Students also conducted research compiled in a graphic
organizer of two column notes. Using their data from research, they were required to
complete a sketch of their ideas for a specific location with a listing of sustainability
factors. Students selected their best design and discussed their design with the instructor.
With the instructor, students evaluated their designs based on the sustainability factors
and feasibility of their designs. Students set out to complete their designs using Google
SketchUp. They met with the architects for further evaluation of their designs. Students
then completed a final design proposal and a concept statement describing their design
and sustainability factors used.
The use of the design process to help students solve the problem makes it
important to understand how students approached and tried to solve sustainability issues
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in the architecture project. Teacher observation notes indicated all of the students set out
to design a sustainable home, as that was the design problem given.
After completion, students reflected on their designs. Surprisingly and
unexpectedly, reflections indicated 50 (100%) of the students began with personal goals
for their designs. Specifically, seven (14%) of the students responded that the primary
goal of their design was to address living needs for a family while creating a sustainable
home. These students set out to create a home that they would want to live in, see figure
IV.7 for a student example.
Figure IV.7 Student Example 1
This student example employed the use of small home design with the goal of
designing a home they would want to live in. The student also addressed furnishings on
the inside of the home such as under floor heating, energy efficient appliances, and the
use of non-toxic paints and glues.
Five (10%) of the students responded their primary goal was to use renewable energy as
part of their design. Four (8%) of the students responded that their specific goal was to
address sustainability needs based on the location they had chosen for their design, see
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figure, IV.8.
Figure IV.8 Student Example 2
This group addressed the multiple sustainability factors for a home in the suburbs.
Seven (14%) students had a specific design goals related to the look of the house, or to a
specific feature of the space, see figure IV.9.
Figure IV.9 Student Example 3
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This student proposed design demonstrates the use of a goal focused on using
different shapes than the standard square or rectangle.
Ten (20%) students set out to address water or energy usage. Three (6%) believed in
building small structures. Twenty two (44%) students had the same goal of the design
problem, to simply address sustainability in their design (the difference in numbers is that
several students had multiple goals). Students with a goal that went beyond sustainability,
such as designing a small home for a family or for themselves, had designs that were
more successful in terms of overall quality and demonstration of understanding of
sustainability. This was further supported by the architects upon reflection. The
architects specifically stated having students set a goal beyond sustainability would help
to improved designs. Student example of this is seen Figure IV. 10 and IV. 11.
Figure IV.10 Student Example 4
This student proposed design demonstrates sustainable design through the goal of
designing a smaller home, 500 square feet, roof top gardening, and the use of electric car.
59


K
Figure IV. 11 Student Example 5
This student proposed design demonstrates sustainable design through the goal of
designing a smaller home and the use of two energy sources, wind and solar.
Making Choices about Sustainability
Many students could easily pick sustainable products and place them in the home
because of their research. They had greater difficulty in determining which would work
best for their location and their personal goals for their design. The fifth and sixth
questions were examined using student reflections, concept maps, discussions with the
architects and concept statements. So exactly how did they apply sustainability ideas in
their design, and why did they make those specific choices? Also, how do students
approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the architecture project? The first thing
that is evident is that the students applied research from their two column notes into their
designs. This is supported by the architects visit and reflection with the teacher.
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Teacher observation notes indicate that the architects stated most of the students were
able to easily apply sustainability concepts in their designs, but didnt often understand
why they needed certain things and what other possibilities were available, referred to by
the architects as lick-and-stick design. As a result of the architects evaluation, the
instructor worked directly with students to help them understand why they needed to
address sustainability factors and what would work best with their design. This work is
evident in student concept statements about their homes. Students addressed energy,
heating and cooling, food, water, transportation, and building materials. While
furnishings, square footage, and area were discussed and important, these were the two
most difficult aspects of designing for the students. Square footage requires students to
pay attention to scale and transfer of knowledge of math concepts in a new setting, which
as stated previously, was a difficult concept for students. Secondly, most of the
sustainability factors can be addressed on the exterior rather than the interior. Students
had the most fun building interiors, but generally ran out of time. Several groups ran out
of class time to complete the inside of their home. Forty-eight (96%) of fifty students
were able to discuss addressing six or more or more of these factors into their designs.
The class also spent time examining the works of famous architects such as Frank
Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. It is evident that several of the students used similar
ideas in their designs. In several of Frank Lloyd Wrights designs, he used materials
from the building site in the building and furnishings. Frank Gehry used materials left
over from construction sites for his own home, thus repurposing materials. Fourteen
students indicated the use of local materials from the building site be used in the
construction or furnishings of their own. Ten (20%) different students cited the use of
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repurposed materials in their furnishings or materials.
The students also examined the green architecture proposals from a Chicago city
design competition and discussed the video, Green Architecture: Environmentally
Friendly Housing. Some of the design ideas presented included the use of higher
ceilings, placing two windows per room to reduce the need for lighting, sod roofing,
wood from certified forests, non-toxic paints and glues, durable materials, and avoiding
costly air conditioning by designing homes to maximize air flow. The video chronicled a
solar home design competition for university students. It emphasized the importance of
placement of a home, primarily north and south, recycled materials, and alternative ways
to use solar in the design. Thirty-one (62%) students cited the use of one or more of
these ideas in their designs. While students discussed these ideas in class and added them
to their notes, they did not spend as much time working with these ideas as they had done
with the initial research. It is a significant outcome to see that so many students used one
or more of these ideas in their designs. Table IV.2 further breaks down student
application of research.
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Table IV.2 Demonstration of Student Learning
This table further demonstrates student learning and the students application of the
research in their designs.
Data Source Factors Addressed Examples Confirms Learning
Concept Maps Energy Solar, wind for the Number of sunny days Cited by 46 students
Designs Materials Size of home because of use of less resources Local materials if mountain design Cited by 18 students
Reflections Conservation Low flow showers and toilets, energy efficient appliances Cited by 26 students
Concept Statements Materials Food Stone and brick for durability Greenhouses, gardens and food delivery based on location Cited by 46 students
Students design goals often drove some of the sustainability factors included in
their designs. A small home design led students to think about how to best utilize the
space in their home and incorporate specific design features such as durable materials or
passive solar. Materials such as brick and stone were chosen because they are durable.
Solar was cited as used by forty-six (94%) of the students because Colorado has abundant
of sunny days. Students who chose mountain home designs often also added wind
turbines because the architects suggested having more than one energy source whenever
possible. Suburban designs that included wind in their plan worked with vertical access
wind turbines. The size of the home was a factor in sustainability for eighteen designs.
These students explained their design used fewer resources, from building material to
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energy use to heating and cooling. Food was another factor addressed by students that
varied with location of the home. Mountain designs often contained greenhouses where
as suburban designs often contained gardens. Students not interested in growing food
discussed the use of grocery delivery and buying at local markets. Conservation played a
role in twenty-six (42%) designs. This was evident in the use of low flow showers and
toilets as well as the use of energy efficient appliances as part of the designs.
While water, materials, transportation, and heating and cooling were addressed,
these considerations didnt vary as much by location than as design choices made by
students. Transportation encouraged the use of walking, biking, and public transportation
whenever possible or the use of electric cars. Water was addressed often through
conservation and catchment systems for watering landscaping. Native materials were
considered in that several students with mountain designs did try to use locally grown
materials in their home.
The concept statements about student designs further demonstrate insight into
their thinking about the project. Several students had some very interesting reflections on
the reasons behind their designs. One student stated, I built this project on this location
to help me understand what I needed less of and what I needed more of in the design.
One pair of students stated, We worked on this project for many weeks and when we
started off we never really knew about the word sustainable. It isnt just a word because
it has a definition that inspires us to think outside the box. Many people could sketch
their house and create a model in Google SketchUp. But when we took that sketch and
created a model, we had to think about the energy sources and materials and ways to
make it eco-friendly. Another group discussed the biggest reason for some of their
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choices in their design, We picked stuff that worked well together like natural materials
of stone and bamboo and that worked well with in a home for a family. A rather unique
goal was discussed by this student who opted for a small home of about 500 square feet:
The house features great aesthetics including a sharp modern look with the house being
based solely on rectangles. I chose this type of design and space manipulation so I could
take the least amount of space and resources and still have a comfortable home. Lastly,
one student wrote, My reason for my design tactics was just to create a simple everyday
house that anyone could live in. From there, I simply applied eco-friendly factors to
attempt to make the house sustainable. For the most part, I believe it was a success.
Post lesson reflection by the students on what they learned demonstrated growth
in applying sustainability concepts. Twenty-two (44%) students reflected they had
learned not only a number of ways to address sustainability in the design of the home, but
also ways they can live more sustainably today. They all provided specific examples of
items and practices used in the design or on a personal level. Twenty students (44%)
discussed learning how to design a home or discussed learning very specific
sustainability factors they then applied to their home design. They cited that location
made a difference in the sustainability choices they made. Placing solar panels on the
south side of the home was essential or choosing a smaller home meant using less
resources. Sixteen (32%) students cited understanding sustainability concepts or
sustainability in general was a major factor they learned. Several students had multiple
listings of what they learned, thus the variance in numbers.
Sketching was another component of the process that students identified as both
difficult and easy. Thirty-nine (78%) of students reflected that, sketching and deciding
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what factors to address was the easiest part of the process from research to design. They
still had specific difficulties with sketching, but overall this was the easiest part of the
design process. These students specifically cited that the easiest component of the
sketching process was deciding what factors to address in their designs. Seven (14%) of
the students reflections varied from making their designs look appealing to using
feedback from the architects or designing for the location as rather easy parts of the
process.
The students had difficulties evaluating their own planning sketches. Ten (20%)
students designing for the suburbs often included large wind turbines. The teacher asked
students if they might want to live next to a wind turbine themselves. Many of the
students stated no. They were then given options for alternative types of turbines, such as
vertical access turbines that are smaller and can easily be used when houses are in close
proximity. These ideas were often provided for the students as they have limited
knowledge of actual possibilities. Two (4%), students were also asked where the best
place to put solar panels on their home might be. Many had not thought about needing
them on the south side of the home, or incorporating solar panels into the design or look
of the home. Three (6%) students placing their homes in the mountains often put in
gardens as part of their design. I discussed growing seasons and the limitation this may
impose. Students often adjusted with the use of grocery delivery, planning for animals
or, in the case of one group, adding a larger deck to accommodate house plants in pots.
Other considerations included working to buy locally grown produce or adding a
greenhouse into their design. Four (8%) students had issues addressing each of the
sustainability factors in their sketches for which they had conducted research. The
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students worked directly with the teacher to address missing factors and worked to
choose the best based on their location.
Another problem students had in sketching was matching the look of their designs
with the floor plan ideas. This was observed in both teacher notes and student reflection.
Thirty-seven (74%) students cited sketching difficulties such as working with the floor
plan, getting the sketch to look the way they had envisioned the home, or mapping out
two story homes. The instructor worked directly with students to plan stairs, hallways
and placement of rooms based on student designs. This was very important to be done
correctly, especially when working in SketchUp. For students to be highly successful
with their designs, the software required students to design from the outside by creating
the basic shape of the house and pushing and pulling shapes as needed for their designs.
Students transferred their sketches to building actual professional-looking
proposals with the software. Students were divided about the ease of using the design
software. Actually, working in the program was where some students felt the most
comfortable. Many cited that was because they worked in SketchUp in seventh grade.
Twenty-two (44%) of the fifty students responded they felt comfortable working in the
program. However, the rest responded that actually making their design work in Google
SketchUp was the difficult part. One student explained, Last year in seventh grade
technology class the project required designing an interior space of several rooms. So I at
least knew how to use the tools, but had difficulty figuring out how to make the design
work. This project required students to design an entire house, and they started on the
outside and worked their way to the inside. It was the opposite thinking process. This
was further cited by six (12%) other students who stated the most difficult part was using
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what they knew from SketchUp, math, and science classes, but in a very different way.
Students had to apply knowledge of climate, clean energy, scale, and calculating area.
While they didnt call it transfer of knowledge, these students acknowledged they had
to use math and science in a different setting which was difficult for many. This transfer
of knowledge represents a higher level skill and was one of the goals of the project.
Another difficulty cited in working with the technology was getting the design to
look and work the way students wanted. While students understood the use of tools, they
had difficulty understanding how to use the tools to get what they wanted. Once students
were working in SketchUp, 90% of the instructors time was spent working directly with
students on technical difficulties with their models or using specific tools. In total 36
homes were proposed out of fifty students participating in the study. The difference
accounts for the fact that students were allowed to work with partners
Based on teacher observation, students had great difficulty measuring and making
the house to scale and then making adjustments as needed. While students learned how
to calculate area in their seventh grade math curriculum, they had difficulty applying this
skill when asked to do this as part of their new design. Scaffolding by the instructor was
provided based on the zone of proximal development of individual students. The
instructor worked with students in small groups to review the concept. Next, based on
observation notes, students had to measure and calculate the area of their home. If it was
too large or small (as was true for eight homes) the teacher taught students how to adjust
their designs as needed. Four homes were designed around a specific concept such as a
circle. These particular designs required more technical knowledge of the software than
the students possessed. Thus, the instructor spent time helping the students work with the
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tools to get what they needed. Ten (20%) students had difficulty creating a pitched roof
in their design. They were taught how to do this which they then could add to their
design. Four groups (16%) worked on their home from the inside first and as a result
their homes had to be reworked. The instructor worked directly with these groups and
these problems often took most of a class period to fix. The instructor did divide tasks so
as to have knowledgeable students teach technical concepts to other less knowledgeable
students to free up the instructors time. The architects were asked not to work with
students on technical issues with the software, so that their focus was only on working
with the students on sustainability and design.
Students reflected that the difficult part of the design was to decide what specific
sustainable components to add for the design and location. Thirty-four (68%) of the
students cited making the design work for the location and incorporating sustainability
were the most difficult parts. One group summed it up best when they stated, creating
an eco-friendly home was difficult when making choices about what factors to address
and how for the location. The specific feedback students received and subsequently
discussed in their concept maps was also demonstrated in their final home-design
proposals. The architects reported that many of the students applied sustainability
components to their design, or specific objects like solar or wind turbines but didnt apply
design concepts such as window placement or which direction their home faced. They
called this lick and stick design. Meaning that students were able to pick from a list of
factors and specific items they would put in their home to address that factor, but didnt
always understand why or how design can address sustainability itself.
Student reflection in their concept maps supported this awareness. Thirty-five
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(70%) students cited feedback from the architects about incorporating sustainability
factors into the design of the home as being very helpful. These students specifically
noted that the types of windows placed on the north and south sides of the home based on
their location were something they changed after the architects input. Ten (20%) of the
students stated they had difficulty, figuring out the placement of solar panels and
windows because they didnt think about determining the north and south in their
designs. These students did make these changes in their designs after the architects
visit as evidenced in their final proposals. Students whose homes were located in
suburban Denver, for example, worked to place larger windows on the north side for light
to avoid over-heating in summer. Teacher observation notes also indicated students had
difficulty understanding which direction the home was facing and the instructor
addressed this by demonstrating how to have the shadows showing while working as well
as how to rotate an entire house as needed.
Another common design feature discussed by the architects was adding
landscaping around the home (such as bushes, shrubs and shade trees). This was shown to
help with energy efficiency, heating, and cooling, as it acted as insulation. The architects
suggested this in 6 (12%) of the designs as referenced by the students in reflections. .
The architects also discussed incorporating solar panels into the actual design of the
house rather than just panels on the roof. An example cited in the video for students was
the use of solar window shades. Passive solar was another option for students, but a
difficult concept for them to understand in designing. Four (8%) students stated they did
address this in the final designs by specifically placing solar panels in overhangs in
decking areas.
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The architects discussed energy use and subsequently cited by 17 (34%) students
was to add more than one energy source into their design. The most common
combination was to use both wind and solar as a result of this feedback. Ultimately, 19
(38%) students added solar and wind to their design, and 6 (12%) students decided to use
geothermal energy for heating and cooling with solar. This is an interesting phenomenon
since nine more of the students added two forms of energy to their designs than discussed
with the architects. This could mean students did discuss this with each other.
Summary
After analyzing the data, it was apparent that students started with a limited or no
understanding of sustainability concepts. This was further evidenced by the questions
and push back received form the video and my footprint quiz. Teacher observation notes
demonstrated that student interest varied in the beginning. Students asked questions
related to how these policies were put into place, how can they be changed to meet the
needs of today, and, what can be done to make a difference. Some students pushed back,
with statements such as I dont really care, My parents dont agree with ecofriendly
ideas, or I like to have a lot of stuff so I am not going to listen.
The quiz challenged students to analyze their own and their families habits.
Students reported their planet scores to the teacher. The class range on average was 4-8
planets would be needed to live our current lifestyle if all people on the planet lived the
way the students currently do. Students didnt comprehend this until the instructor asked
the question, how many planets do we actually have to live on? This driving discussion
question from the footprint quiz opened students to think about their options. Students
discussed the questions asked, concerning food, water, transportation, housing and energy
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use. They brainstormed ways they currently can make different choices as a class, as
evidenced in the lifestyle changes students stated they made.
Upon review of the post data, it was apparent that students were able to
understand sustainability and define it in their own words. All of the students, 100%,
were able to define sustainability appropriately after completion of the unit. Prior to the
start of the unit only 4% of the students could correctly define it. This not only
demonstrates a tremendous amount of growth, but also that concept was new to the
students, and they were able to grasp and understand after completing the project More
importantly students were able to apply it to their own lives, even if only at a minimal
level. They began to think about their personal choices. Design-based learning provided
a framework for students to address a rather complex problem-based instruction. It
challenged the students to begin to think about the consumption paradigms and begin to
provide alternatives.
Students were able to begin to understand how to apply the concepts in their
designs and why it was important to do so. The concept statements about their work and
the goals each student began with demonstrated a growth in the understanding of the
project. Interestingly, not one student proposed a multifamily dwelling. All designs
were single family homes with large yards, many with fences around them. This
shouldnt be surprising since that is how most of the students in the area live. However,
after discussing the use of resources in class and ways to use less, no students were able
to go beyond the common single family structure.
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CHAPTER V
DISCUSSION
The study began as a means to understand student learning as it relates
sustainability and applying sustainability concepts in technology education. The findings
were intended to improve classroom instruction. A review of the literature indicates that
sustainability is needed in the technology education classroom. Design education
framework with the aide of problem-based learning environment and scaffolded
instruction were used to address sustainability education. It was proven that this process
can create an environment that allows students to question the current paradigms in
which they take action to make changes.
The main question, that guided the research, How can a home design project
impact middle school students understanding and appreciation of sustainability?
provided a basis for reflection. Design education with the use of technology can be an
effective tool for conceptual change. Students began the unit with limited to no
understanding of sustainability concepts. Upon completion of the unit all of the students
were able to define sustainability and apply sustainability concepts. More importantly, a
majority of the students actually applied specific concepts to their own personal lives,
thus changing their attitudes regarding the importance of sustainability, further proving
conceptual growth.
Design-based education also provided an ideal framework for guiding students
through the problem solving. Students were successful in their design proposals. All
students were able to apply some of the research conducted in class to their final designs
and explain how sustainability concepts were used, both in their concept statements and
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reflections. Students were able to directly reflect and evaluate their designs with the
architects and make changes as needed. Students also cited this as an important and
worthwhile process in their concept maps. The design process also proved invaluable in
guiding students through problem solving. Not only did the process provide scaffolding
for students, it enabled them to begin to develop problem solving skills that can be
transferred into other contexts.
The findings regarding student learning provide support for Vygotskys theory of
learning and development. Students were ready to grasp sustainability concepts,
demonstrating a 96% growth rate. Students were able to grasp these concepts with the
correct supports, and the unit therefore, was in the zone of proximal development.
Dialogue is a key to cognitive development. Students were engaged in a problem solving
experience, a key component to learning emphasized by both Vygotsky and Dewey.
From this experience students were able to apply sustainability concepts to their designs
and internalize goals that were greater than the design problem. They set goals such as
creating a sustainable home that a family would actually want or a house they would live
in. Students were also able to apply these concepts into their personal lives.
Dialogue is a major component of development and learning according to
Vygotsy and Dewey. Students were able to actively participate in the problem solving
process through the use of dialogue. More importantly student concept maps and
reflections demonstrated the various kinds of dialogue that lead to student learning.
Students discussed, reflected and evaluated their work with professionals in the field, the
instructor, classmates, and through their writing.. They demonstrated application of
research in their designs and concept statements about their work. Their sketches and
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final designs often changed as students worked through the problem, demonstrating
internal dialogue as well.
Interpretation and Meaning of Findings
When I began this project and the study I expected some growth in student
understanding and application of sustainability. However I didnt expect that all of the
students would be able to define sustainability, nor actually apply sustainability concepts
to their personal life. It confirmed my hypothesis and theoretical framework that
problem-based learning environments with adequate scaffolding can be an effective
method for delivering instruction that challenges students and is also motivating to lead
to overall conceptual change.
Developmentally the group studied consisted of 12-14 year old students and
sustainability is a difficult concept. Some parents of students in the school view the need
for sustainability as political rather factual, thus making conceptual change a more
difficult process for some of those students. The considerable growth in application
sustainability concepts shows students open to change, particularly after participating in
the design problem.
After completing the project, 74% of the students had made two or more changes
in their personal habits related to sustainability. Reflections completed by the students
demonstrated 82% of the students did make some changes. Their answers concerning
specific habits they changed related to water conservation, saving electricity, walking and
riding bikes, and buying local produce. Recycling was also cited by students. This
demonstrates the students cared enough after the completion of the project to begin
making small, but incremental changes.
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Students demonstrated considerable growth in the understanding and application of
sustainable solutions to their designs. They were able to propose authentic solutions to
the problem and apply their research. Students followed the design process throughout
the project. They started with planning sketches, added information from their research
and discussed their designs with the architects. Their proposals then changed based on
feedback from the architects. Students cited making specific changes to their designs
based location and feedback from the architects and the instructor. They also cited using
specific ideas from research that they applied in their designs. Feedback by the architects
in particular proved to be invaluable to student growth. Students are accountable to the
designs when they meet with the architects and must defend their goals and purpose.
When students received feedback they immediately changed their designs, but were also
able to grasp the importance of getting it right in their designs.
Receiving or accessing information at the moment it is needed further supports the
theoretical framework. Students wouldnt always grasp technical concepts or vocabulary
until they were needed to complete a task in their designs. It is this time sensitive
introduction that is important to note when helping students grasp deeper concepts such
as sustainability or problem solving.
Implications
The study has some implications on future instruction in my classroom. I am
aware of student difficulties and will address them in classroom instruction. One
difficulty cited by the student was transferring the sketch to a design in SketchUp.
Guiding students through the process by having them draw a simple object and recreate
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in SketchUp could help. Providing easy access to video tutorials that demonstrate how to
use SketchUp for common building issues will also be helpful. Working directly with
students on drawing to scale and building basic drawing skills may help. This may also
provide assistance for understanding and applying the mathematical concepts learned in
math class to the technology classroom. Students had difficulty applying these concepts
when needed. Teacher review and small group instruction were used in class, and did
help the students. More review is needed in how to help students with this thinking
process.
Another interesting aspect that emerged from the data was that students could use
sustainability concepts in their designs from their research, but didnt always understand
why they used them or the benefit based on location. This is a critical component of the
process and a higher level thinking skill. Direct work with students on understanding
how sustainability can be accomplished through design is needed.
Data from teacher observation notes also indicated a large amount of instructor
time was helping with technology issues. The focus really should be on working with
student designs and discussing their ideas. Creating an easily accessible database of
videos for students may prove to eliminate some of this time. The study also
demonstrates students are able to handle sustainability concepts at this age and apply
these to their own lives.
Implications for Technology Instruction
Technology education needs to be more than teaching software. Sustainability
education can be a valuable part of a middle school technology curriculum as the concept
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goes beyond the teaching of software. Rather it enables to teachers to address current
issues, connect learning beyond the classroom and provides problems that challenge
students to think beyond their comfort zone. The use of technology enables quick access
to resources and software that enables students to create final designs that look
professional. The study provides a case that technology education leading to conceptual
change needs to be about problems that go beyond software. Attributes from problem-
based learning help set the stage for higher level concepts such as sustainability that lead
to the conceptual change desired. Providing adequate scaffolding through the design
process and helping students through research tasks and organizing their information is
also an essential component.
Sustainability can be addressed in the classroom through a variety of problems
and projects. Reaching out to professionals working on current issues is an ideal way to
develop problems that help students connect learning beyond the classroom. The
architects in this study have proved to be invaluable in the development of the project, the
scaffolding of the lesson, and interventions students needed. Professionals working
directly with the students enables them to understand that the classroom expectations for
the problem are not different than tasks preformed for specific careers.
Building problem-based tasks takes time and is a learning process. Design
experiments provide a guide for building instruction that includes reflection and
understanding of how classroom elements contribute to student learning and
understanding. Using design experiments as a guide can aid instructors in developing
higher level lessons that build knowledge and conceptual change. Instruction varies by
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grouping of students. Design education and the design process allow for flexibility in
addressing student needs.
Implications for Design-Based Instruction
This study provides support for the effectiveness of design-based instruction as an
approach to raising the understanding and appreciation of middle school students for
sustainability while building technical and conceptual knowledge and skills. The design
process is an ideal vehicle to guide students through when examining difficult problems
and creating solutions. Sustainability, while a difficult concept, can be understood by
middle school students with the help of facilitated instruction. It follows the principles of
the zone of proximal development. Experiential learning allows students a hands-on
working environment in which to explore ideas, discuss and reflect on ideas, and apply
knowledge. The findings from this study demonstrate the sustainable architecture design
problem is an effective lesson that meets the needs of learners, but challenges them to
think differently while they apply previous knowledge.
The work with professionals in the field also proved to be an invaluable
component to the lesson. The professionals gave authentic insights into the students
thinking and process allowing me to address student needs. They also gave feedback on
the lesson, offering suggestions for improvement and different ways to focus the lesson
depending on learning objectives. The architects provided valuable resources and
information related to design, sustainability and working with architecture to aid in
instruction and learning.
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Implications for Research and Further Questions for Study
Understanding how students thought about their designs through interviewing
would be of interest. Continuous improvement of curriculum and teaching on
sustainability at the middle school level would be helpful as there are limited studies
currently available. The results of the study will be used to improve the instruction of the
research component of the unit. However, some questions need to be discussed further.
Are students able to carry their understanding of sustainability beyond one lesson or for a
temporary amount of time? Are students able to apply the design process to other
problems they encounter in both technology and core classes? Do other design based
projects that address sustainability have similar impact on student learning?
Limitations
The study had some limitations. Student work was the primary data source. A
large portion of the study included the evaluation of student writing through concept
statements, answers to pre-tests, and reflections. Data can be limited if students are not
comfortable writing. Several students were absent during the last week of the project.
Five students between the two classes were absent for an entire week. This made getting
their work completed as well as working and meeting with them about their project
difficult, and had they not been absent their reflections and post-test answers may have
been different. This study only evaluated student learning during a project with a small
sample size. This may make it difficult to apply to a larger setting.
Design-based instruction should not be reserved for the art or technology
classroom. Students who build skills for the 21st century need more experience with
problem-solving and problem-solving processes. The science classroom can provide
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high quality problems that require more in-depth study than the scientific method. The
design process is but one example. Educators no longer the luxury of not addressing
sustainability concepts in any school curriculum. School curricula that creates learners
who question the current paradigms compel other subject areas to address these concepts
in instruction and in school-wide practices. Students can and are willing to apply
sustainability concepts in their own lives when presented with problems that help begin
conceptual growth.
The project allowed students to begin questioning current paradigms and
consumption patterns, creating learners who are building their critical thinking skills
while addressing the needs and interests of middle school students, using technology.
The study gave a glimpse of how students address sustainability factors in their own
designs, how students apply research knowledge into a design problem, and that
hopefully students can begin to take what they have learned in a classroom setting and
apply it to their own lives.
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Full Text

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A DESIGN BASED APPROACH TO TEACHING SUSTAINABILITY by Kim R Walter B.S. University of Wisconsin Madison, 1994 M.S University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, 2002 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado in par tial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy Educational Leadership and Innovation Spring 2013

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ii This thesis for the Doctor of Philosophy degree by Kim R Walter has been approved for the Education an d Leadership Innovation Program by Alan Davis Advisor Joanna Dunlap, Chair Connie Stewart Laura Summers April 11 th 2013

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iii Walter, Kim R (Ph.D. Educational Leadership and Innovation ) A Design Based Approach to Teaching Sustainability Thesis directed by Professor Alan D avis A BSTRACT We live on a finite ecological system, yet consume as though resources are unlimited. Current environmental data suggests many in the developed world are living beyond what the earth is able to sustain. The paradigms in which we operate co ntinue to support a path of constant consumption that continues to exacerbate this problem. Technology educators can and should play a valuable role in working with students to question these paradigms through lessons that begin to engage students toward thinking about a more sustainable future. Design based instruction provide s a framework for instructional practices that allow s students to build problem solving and critical thinking skills as they begin to understand deeper concepts related to sustainabi lity. Th is study examined middle school students understanding of sustainability after completing a design based unit. The study evaluated student work, concept maps, observations and pre and post tests to determine student understanding of sustainabili ty Instruction involved aspects of problem based learning, design education and the use of technology. Students were given an authentic problem of designing a sustainable home. As part of the design process students conducted research on the factors and specific design components that would make a home sustainable. The main question guiding this study was

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iv appreciation of sustainability? The findings suggest students demo nstrated significant growth in understanding concepts of sustainability and were able to apply sustainable concepts in their designs. Eighty percent of students were able to meet or exceed rubric expectations on explaining the importance of sustainability All of the students also demonstrated considerable growth in the understanding and application of sustainable solutions to their designs. They were able to propose authentic solutions to the problem and apply their research. The form and content of t his abstract are approved. I recommend its publication. Approved: Alan Davis

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v DEDICATION I dedicate this work to PATRICK DAY and MY STUDENTS

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vi ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I would like to thank all the members of my committee for their support I would like t o give a special thanks to Alan Davis for his continued support in this process, and Paul Day for help with editing.

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vii TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ................................ .......... 1 Statement of the Problem ................................ ................................ ........................ 3 Rationale and Purpose of the Study ................................ ................................ ........ 4 Research Questions ................................ ................................ ................................ 6 Preview of Methodology ................................ ................................ ......................... 7 Evolving History of Design Unit in the Technology Classroom ............................ 8 II. CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE ..................... 14 Conceptual Framework ................................ ................................ ......................... 14 Problem based Learning ................................ ................................ ................. 15 The Design Process ................................ ................................ ......................... 19 Literature Review ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 21 Dialogue and Learning ................................ ................................ .................... 21 Experiential Learning ................................ ................................ ...................... 23 Relationship to Sociocultural Concepts of Learning ................................ ...... 25 De sign as Inquiry ................................ ................................ ............................ 28 Knowledge Building ................................ ................................ ....................... 30 Scaffolds for Problem Based Learning ................................ ........................... 32 Graphic Organizers and Learning ................................ ................................ ... 33 III. METHODS AND PROCEDURES ................................ ................................ ........... 35 Methods ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 36 Schoo l Setting and Participants ................................ ................................ ...... 36 Instructional Practice ................................ ................................ ...................... 37 Research and Procedures ................................ ................................ ...................... 43

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viii Qualitative Data ................................ ................................ .............................. 43 Quantitative Data ................................ ................................ ............................ 45 IV. FINDINGS ................................ ................................ ................................ ................ 49 Research Findings ................................ ................................ ................................ 49 Student Understanding of Sustainability ................................ .............................. 49 Importance of Sustainability Factors ................................ .............................. 51 Changes in Lifestyle Choices ................................ ................................ .......... 54 Student Proposed Sustainable Solutions ................................ ......................... 56 Making Choi ces about Sustainability ................................ ............................. 60 Summary ................................ ................................ ................................ ............... 71 V. DISCUSSION ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 73 Interpreta tion and Meaning of Findings ................................ ............................... 75 Implications ................................ ................................ ................................ ........... 76 Implications for Technology Instruction ................................ ........................ 77 Implications for Design Based Instruction ................................ ..................... 79 Implications for Research and Further Questions for Study ........................... 80 Limitations ................................ ................................ ................................ ............ 80 REFERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ................. 82

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ix LIST OF TABLES Table I V.1 Pre and Post Test Data ................................ ................................ ............................. 52 IV.2 Demonstration of Student Learning ................................ ................................ ......... 63

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x LIST OF FIGURES Figure II.1 Concept Map ................................ ................................ ................................ ............. 15 II.2 The Design Process ................................ ................................ ................................ ... 20 III.3 The Design Loop ................................ ................................ ................................ ...... 40 III.4 2 Column Notes ................................ ................................ ................................ ....... 40 III.5 Assessing Understanding of Sustainability. ................................ ............................. 44 III.6 Scoring Rubric ................................ ................................ ................................ ......... 47 IV.7 Student Example 1. ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 56 IV.8 Student Example 2. ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 57 IV.9 Student Example 3. ................................ ................................ ................................ .. 58 IV.10 Student Example 4. ................................ ................................ ................................ 58 IV.11 Student Example 5. ................................ ................................ ................................ 60

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xi LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS ESD Education for Sust a inable Development PBL Problem Based Learning CHAT Cultural Historical Activity Theory

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1 CHAPTER I I NTRODUCTION The United States, with less than 5 % of the global population, uses about a quarter burning up nearly 25 % of the coal, 26 % of the oil, 2011 ). World Watch further s uggests that the average home size has increased by 38% while the total number of people living in the home has decreased (2011) In the developed world alone, citizens consume 20 30 percent more than the planet is able to handle (Ha les & Corvalan, 2006; Vitousek Mooney, Lubchenco & Melillo 1997). Consumption rates are moving faster than the earth can replace the resources being used ( Head, 2011). As the population of the planet increases, demand for resources will also continue to increase and available productive land will continue to decrease. Current levels of average consumption world wide require 2.02 hectares per person, while Britain and the United States alone are using 6 to 10 hectares per person (Head, 2011). The Uni identify the cause of this unsustainable path as consumption and production, particularly in developed countries, that will ultimately lead to continued degradation of the environment. sumption is central to our model of human development, and in designing and building these systems we have created the hard wiring of a non renewable fossil fuel resource ( p. 21 ). Yet, the current political and economic discussions focu s primarily on continued material growth. Consumption is seen as a right for everyone in society (Harper, 2007; Bush, 2007). The

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2 tragedy of this thinking is a discourse that has compromised the environment and our health. Attention to the problem is dea forced to do so by threat of regulation or economic sanction. These paradigms are no longer viable or defensible from an ethical or moral standpoint (Elshof, 2008, p. 134). T his system of production to con stant consumption has been created and therefore can be changed. The United States operate s under an economic paradigm that uses non renewable resources ending in landfills pollut ing and destroy ing the eco system that provides life (Head, 2011). This v ery linear system does not work given the environmental constraints of finite resources on a finite planet. It is a consumption driven model that designs for manufacturing to consumption and ultimately for the landfill through both planned obsolescence an d perceived obsolescence (Grossman, 2006). Sustainability challenges the system of production to consumption as well as the assumption of continuous economic growth (Fraud Luke, 2009). Educating about s ustainability enables students to challenge these pa radigms and equips students to propose ideas to address these issues. the aim of sustainable education is to help students understand and respond to complex environmenta (Higgins and McMillan, 2006, p 40). Sustainability is defined by the World Commission on Environment and term use of natural resources so that these are available for future generations (1987, p. 43). This provides a working definition for the classroom. However, Fihlo Evangelos and Pace (2008) believe the

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3 definition should be constantly evolving and that Education for Sust ainable Development (ESD) needs to be defined by questions that require a rethinking of educational traditions and norms to meet the needs of ESD. Education and teacher education programs must begin to prepare students for a sustainable future (Gross, 200 0). Students today did not design or create the current paradigm. They are, however, active participants and consumers. Sustainability as part of the curriculum can help students understand their role in caring for the environment (Elshof, 2008). Tec hnology classes provide an opportunity to address this challenge I t is imperative that education in and for sustainable practices play s a central role in technology education (Elshof, 2008). Statement of the Problem Limited research has been conducted to examine the nature of learning understanding of sustainability in technology education (Middleton, 2009). Additionally, m any of the leading organizations charged with developing educational standards call for problem solving, critical thinking, and de veloping technology skills. They do not however address the need for understanding sustainability. The Tech Tally a report by the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the National Research Council (2002), categorized characteristics of a technology literate person in areas of knowledge, critical thinking decision making, and technological capabilities. However the Tech Tally does not include environmental or sustainability concepts in technological thinking, design and capability that are needed t o address problems of today and in the future. The International Society for Technology Education (ISTE) and 21 st Century Skills have also created technology standards and frameworks for education (ISTE, 2007; 21 st Century Skills, 2008). These also do no t mention the need for students to understand

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4 sustainability concepts. Educating for understanding of sustainability concepts in addition to problem solving and critical thinking skills will help students to rethink the current economic and social parad igms. Education for sustainable development can empower individuals toward transformative actions that result in changes in world view (Pavl o v a 2009). Given the reality of our natural systems a change in consumption, i.e. a drastic change of everyday h abits is upon us (Elshof, 2009). Mckeown (2002) further growing demand for resources and consumer goods and the accompanying production of pollutants. Meeting this challenge depends on reorienting curriculums to address the need for more sustainable production and consumption patterns (p 11). Components of successful sustainable education design have three main goals (a) students understand problem s and issues for sustaina ble futures : (b) to promote awareness of sustainability through projects and activities, and (c) to use eco design principles (Pavlova, 2009). The technology classroom provides an ideal setting for the teaching of sustainability concepts (Gross, 2000). Interestingly, the most educated nations also have the highest consumption rates (McKeown, 2002). T echnology education for sustainability is a human created and directed activity whose purpose is to bring about purposeful change in student learning, teach ing effectiveness, and program effectiveness in an exemplary way (Gross, 2000). Technology education and learning about sustainability allows for the fact that design problems are a new conceptualization of problem solving (Middleton, 1998 ). Rationale a nd Purpose of the Study I undertook this study to examine in detail studen t participation in this unit and their subsequent understanding of sustainability concepts upon completion. Several years

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5 ago I introduced a unit on sustainability in a suburban m iddle school. The unit emerged as a central challenge for me as a teacher. In my view the unit had the potential of accomplishing the technology objectives of the course and teaching students essential knowledge about sustainability at the same time. Th e initial experience, however, did not meet my expectations, but met with enough success as the students were interested in the technology and did learn about sustainability to convince me that my expectations were not unrealistic. I decided to systematic ally study my efforts to improve the unit and document in detail the learning of the students as they progressed through it. As a work of action research, this study had the dual purpose of informing my own practice as a teacher using technology to teach about sustainability, and to explore with a wider audience the broader potential and implications of using design to teach about sustainability. The purpose of this study is to explore middle school student understanding of the concept of sustainability with in technology education as an effort to improve classroom instruction. The study used the case of a middle school technology unit to carry out this purpose. Sustainability is often a difficult concept for middle school students. Many students think of sustainability as structurally sound object s or eco friendly products and recycling. A further reason for this study is to address assumptions students and parents have toward sustainability. Most of the students begin this study not really understan ding sustainability beyond being eco the discussion of this issue or that of climate change in the classroom, as both are often seen as a values debate rather than an issue on established knowledge. Given the climate change data and other environmental issues, it is imperative such issues be presented in

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6 the classroom I nstruction should go beyond political controversy to alternative ways of addressing future problems while giving students tools to questi on and rethink the current paradigms. T his thesis evaluate d student created solutions to sustainability problem s in addition to instructional tools such as concept maps, observations and pre and post tests. Instruction involved the use of the design pro cess, concepts from problem based learning and the use of technology. Students were given an authentic problem of designing a sustainable home. As part of the design process students conduct ed research on sustainability as it relates to home design. T hey had specific design factors and components to address. They used research to inform their design proposals as well as to enhance their understanding of sustainability Aspects of p roblem based learning and design based instruction provide d a framewor k for the learning environment, which is particularly well suited to leading students to a lasting change in both understanding and attitudes towards sustainability. This framework guide d the overriding question of the research. Research Questions The f ocus of this research is on applying a problem based learning model on design based instruction in an attempt to develop a greater understanding of the subject matter, make connections across disciplines and build problem solving skills. The main question that will guide the research is How can a home design project impact middle Questions that will help guide the study include: 1. What are middle school student s attitudes and understan ding of sustainability

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7 before and after a design unit? 2. Why are sustainable practices important? 3. After completi on has the project impacted ideas about personal lifestyle choices in terms of consumption? 4. What sustainable solutions do students prop ose for home design? 5. How do students approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the architecture project? 6. How did students apply sustainability ideas in their proposals, and why did they make those specific choices? Preview of Methodology The stud y involved action research. As a teacher and scholar, action research provides support for the instructor as researcher. Action research helps the instructor document context, procedures, growth, and theor y to aide in developing and improving classroom p ractices (Fisher & Phelps, 2006). Action research conducted by teachers also offers a valuable contribution by ( Suter 2006) My questions for the study emerged from reflection on the unit related to classroom practice, studen t needs and a specific focus on improving the lessons. This is supported by Cocran Smith and Lytle (1990) when they disc uss teacher developed questions; teacher developed questions come from areas in need of improvement and a combination of both theory a nd practice. Teacher research will force the re evaluation of current theories and will significantly influence what is known about teaching, learning, and schooling. The study uses both quantit at ive and qualitative date to inform understanding. This is comparable to research tools used in other methods of study Qualitative data w as comprised of teacher observations, evaluati ons of student created m aps, c oncept statements and the final design solution. The final product include d the design and a par agraph (concept statement) explaining the sustainability factors used in the design of the home. Students also created a concept map of their

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8 learning throughout the process These artifacts were analyzed for the connections students made as a means of u nderstanding their learning. Classroom observations w ere also recorded in a daily journal during at the end of each class. Observations and subsequent recording s include d three components : (a) interactions that occurred with students including student que stions, (b) teacher feedback us e of feedback in the designs. The last component of data collection was conducting individual meeting s with the students. I met directly with the students to discuss their grade and the ideas in their project. Students had to reflect on their designs, goals, problems that occurred and their overall learning in small groups with the instructor. Pre and post tests were administered to get an overview of student understanding of th eir learning prior to the study of the unit and then as a result of the unit. The goal wa s to examine the greatest student understanding and application of the concept of sustainability before and upon completion of the unit. Evolving History of Design Unit in the Technology Classroom Because of the continually evolving nature of the unit action research supported data collection that lead to the improvement of the lesson. I initiated the unit for two main reasons First, the current environmental par adigm needed to be taught and research suggested the technology curriculum was a great avenue for addressing the concern. Second, I had a new opportunity to develop and create a more challenging curriculum since moving from a classroom designed around th e students rotating through twelve different stations to a classroom with more computers The additional technology

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9 provided a n opportunity to develop a richer, more challenging curriculum to meet the needs of the 21 st century. A characteristic of desi gn research is that it is an interactive and ongoing process. Each revision of the design is based on an examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the previous version. In that sense, this project has evolved through an informal process of design res earch. I have been teaching the sustainability unit for seven years. It developed as I began looking for curriculum that challenged students to go deeper into a problem. Design problems challenge students to problem solve and allow for easy connections beyond the classroom. I also needed design problems that did not require high cost software. Google SketchUp was a cost effective choice which afforded a wider range of possibilities in terms of design problems. I originally started by giving students t he problem: designing a sustainable home for a family of four, and then guiding them through the design process. This ever evolving lesson started with me being very explicit about the design process. Students started with understanding the problem, res earching and then creating proposals. Many of the original final designs demonstrated that students really wanted to just design a dream home, but with limited thought put into sustainability. I then began having students begin their research by going ho me and evaluating the spaces in their home. They listed what things were in their home and how often they were used. Students nt on to completing research and proposals. However, the students often had difficulty applying their research to their designs, or

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10 I decided the research component needed to be mor e helpful to the students so I began digging for sources to help students see more examples. I located a design competition in Chicago where architects proposed sustainable home designs for low income housing. The article explained the thought process of the architects and an accompanying set of handouts to go over with students as part of the research aspect. I searched for resources and then had students complete web quests for their research component. This was difficult as there were very limited, k id friendly resources on architecture and sustainability available for students. I tried working in Inspiration a software program that enables the user to organize information in a web format. The students built webs of their research findings and even worked with them in large groups, but students still wanted to spend much of their time adding basketball courts and swimming pools to their final designs. It was evident that they were still not grasping the research or applying their research to their project. I then started looking for sample graphic organizers that might help all students organize their research findings into a more useful format. I experimented with different types of notes, non linear organizers like clusters or webs that help s tudents connect ideas to thinking maps. The most effective seemed to be two column notes. Students could easily organize their research findings and quickly apply them to their home. The guide for the notes came from the My Footprint quiz, allowing for understanding of the problem in a simpler context. Additionally about this time I found The Story of Stuff video by Annie Leonard. This made the problem of sustainability more easily understandable for the students. The students connected with the image s and questions in the video, thus making the design

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11 problem authentic I saw kids ask more questions after the video concerning why society continues on an unsustainable path. I brought in architects to discuss their work with the students and to help th em make connections to what they were doing and to possible career choices. The architects gave the most valuable feedback on my lesson, there by altering what I needed to do to get the students to understand the problem. This connection within the busin ess community was invaluable at helping fine tune the lesson before and after each session to best help the students They are, after all, experts in their field. After working with them I have changed the lesson and continue to make alterations as knowl edge in the field evolves and I get better at addressing the needs of the students. The architects suggested narrowing the lesson to specific locations. I now give the students a choice of building locations. Such a focus challenges students to think more about actually applying their research based on a specific location. I have used Google Earth to mark specific locations that students must look up and then try to design accordingly. I have worked with students to think more about designing for a p urpose that goes beyond sustainability, for a family for instance. The architects would work with students on the size of their home as it related to sustainability. Students often had homes ranging from 2 inches to 2000 feet long. The architects measured building and use those measurements in their home (for example the height of a story, height of a door, width of a door, and dimensions of furniture). This attention to detail helps students apply them to the design. When students were given the measurements

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12 they d id not apply them as easily as when they were asked to measure and record these measurements themselves. I have also worked with students to design a home within a specifi c budget. The students must research the average family income and price of an average home and design with this budget in mind. The architects advised this as a way for students to think about addressing client needs rather than their own. I have no lo nger use this aspect up as students was no longer on sustainability, even though that was still part of the design problem. The architects have also recommended getting the students to think more about the design of their home. Sustainability can be addressed through design, an issue addressed in the solar home competition video the students viewed this past year. Placement of the home and windows are one example. The architects suggested getting students to utilize solar panels in the design, not just randomly place on the roof. As a result of their suggestions, I have spent more class time showing specific homes with design features that address sustainability. The architects proposed having students write the concept statement. This makes the students articulate their goals and explain how they specifically addressed sustainability in their design. This has proved invaluable to getting students to discuss and be a ccountable for their thinking in their design and the justification for the purpose of their design. Another aspect suggested by the architects is to have students set a goal mily or a place the student wants to live. The lesson itself is ever evolving as more resources

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13 become available. The lesson examined for the study added a research component for the students. Students had to search for two more additional website resou rces. They often f ou nd websites that are easier and more interesting for them to understand. Toward this end I chose to work with the school librarian and for searching and evaluating websites. The goal of the project is to aid in conceptual change as it relates to sustainability concepts, help students build skills and apply research to their problem solving, and build problem solving skills and strategies. The role as a teacher scholar is to evaluate the degree to which students met these goals.

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14 CHAPT ER II CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK AND REVIEW OF LITERATURE Conceptual Framework A framework for issues the curriculum needs to address in education for sustainable development (ESD ) are provided by Filho, Evangelos, & Pac e (2008) : Students should have qualities such as human values; perspectives such as respect and tolerance; a sense of caring for the environment and others, and the personal and vocational skills to be self reliant and not become a victim of circumstances Moreover, they need to understand the strategic issues facing them at the local and the global levels and how each of these issues regarding the environment, the being are interdependent. In this context, fundamental skills su ch as critical and ethical thinking, problem solving, consensus building and conflict resolution as well as the knowledge that science, business, and politics must work together are essential components of an ESD program (p. 138) Problem based learning p rovides a guide for educating about sustainability in design based problems as it guide s students to toward conceptual change. The design process is a framework for students to understand a problem in depth. In this section I will discuss problem based l earning and design instruction. Finally, I trace the theoretical and philosophical roots of both problem based learning and design instruction and their relationship to the sociocultural approach of Vygotsky. The teacher plays a facilitator role as the students progress through the design process. Classroom practices that students will use include cooperative learning groups,

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15 creating connecti ons to what students already know, and connect ing learning to the real world. As a result students will see gro wth in their understanding of sustainability, and the ability to apply this knowledge in their lives and to create solutions to problems they identify. See Figure II. 1 Figure I I 1 Concept Map Sociocultural theory and exp eriential learning inform teacher practice through the use of problem based learn in g and design instruction. Problem based Learning The sustainability unit draws on the traditions of problem based learning and design education While there are specific m odels and procedures for the use of problem based learning this unit does not follow a particular refined model, but rather draws on important elements such as student centered practices having multiple solutions, reflection, evaluation and teacher facil itator role. Students were left to use their own initiative and processes to arrive at their own unique solutions and were not graded on how well the model conformed to a specific outcome They were provided scaffolding to address important aspects of t he problem. In problem based learning students are given a problem, issue or situation to address (Todd, 2009). Problem based

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16 learning (PBL) can be defined as, ... an educational format that attempts to simulate real life practice settings through pre d efined problem scenarios to encourage the discussion and l earning of the experiences that emanate from practice based problems. It is a method that fosters independent learning, encourages students to practically tackle perplexing situations and actively define their own gaps in understanding the problems in their realistic contexts, and enhances a more comprehensive as well as deeper understanding of the material rather than superficial coverage ( Eilouti 200 7 p. 198) The PBL process has six dimensions according to Burrows and Kelson (1993) and Savery (2006) : (a ) develop a problem solving approach to higher order thinking skills, (b) acquire knowledge that can be transferred to other situations, (c ) direct their own learning (d ) dev elop skills to work with a team, (e ) develop life long learning skills, and (f) build habits for self reflection and evaluation. Pierce and Jones (2000, p. 79) also support this Both contextual learning and problem based learning can be seen as continua, moving from a low to a high degree of application Ill structure d problems are those often encountered in real life contexts and are a predomina n t workplace skill (Jonassen, 2006). Problems create meaningful learning particularly when structured to be active, construct ive, cooperative and intentional (Jonassen, Howland, Marra, Crismond, 2008 ). The specific type of problem students are undertaking in this case is a design problem. Jonassen defines this as a problem that is goal directed toward the production of an obje ct and has real world application that

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17 requires structuring (2004). Problem based learning allows students to connect and gain knowledge across disciplines (Boud 1995). Problem based learning goals are similar to the goals of design education (Eilouti, 2007). According to Eilouti (2007, p 199 ) design problems are known to be ill structured and are based on multi disciplinary knowledge and multiple information resources thus they are suitable for the multifaceted PBL model application Optimal problem based learning lends itself to a focus on real world problems. It is learner directed where the teachers and students work together as researchers and learners. Students work directly with experts in the field through discussions, workplace visit s and evaluations (Pierce & Jones, 2000). The design problem, designing a sustainable home, requires students to complete research to inform their designs and understand what knowledge they must obtain to complete a design. Students must understand wha t sustainability is, why it is important and how it can be specifically addressed in their designs. They also must create a design that a person would actually want to build the problem leaving it ill struc tured Problem based learning is also student centered with small group s that are experiential and directed by the students with the teacher act ing as a facilitator (Hakkarainen, 2009). Design instruction works in a similar fashion. Students mus t engag e in observation, identifying issues, framing problems, collaborativ ely working, discussing ideas, and presenting these ideas visually and verbally, as well as periods of reflection and critique (Davis et al. 1997). Sustainability problems are by nature c omplex and ill defined requir ing original solutions. As a result sustainability problems are really design problems (Middleton 2008). The design process and design problems lend themselves to students learning and developing these

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18 skills. Design probl ems are complex and self directed; they require collaboration and self reflection as well as revision of ideas (Blumenfeld, Soloway, Marx, Krajcik, Guzdial, & Palinscar, 1991; Collins, Brown & Newman 1990 ; Harel & Papert, 1990 ; Kafai, 1996). It is also th is meaningful learning that leads to conceptual change (Jonassen, 2006). Sustainability alone is a complex problem (Elshof, 2008). It takes time to address and solve the problem. Kahane (2004) states, Simple problems with low complexity can be solved pe rfectly well efficiently and effectively using processes that are piecemeal, backward looking, and authoritarian. By contrast, highly complex problems can only be solved using processes that are systemic, emergent and participatory. (p. 32) The best inst ruction for sustainability i nvolve s meaningful change in student learning, exemplary problems, and effective teaching (Filho Evangelos & Pace 2008). Problems related to sustainability do need to be integrated across subject matter and involve students in multiple skills (Filho Evangelos & Pace 2008). Problem based instruction provides learners a better understanding of their learning. Jonassen (2004) states, Students who memorize information for the test usually retain less than 10 percent of the wh ole curriculum, so 10 percent of the whole curriculum (100 percent assuming that the teacher or trainer can cover the whole curriculum) yields a 10 percent learning outcome (and is probably less than tha t) In a problem oriented curriculum, students may c over only 50 percent of the curriculum, but they understand and remember 50 percent of what they learn, yielding a 25 percent learning outcome (p. 2)

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19 The Design Process Problem based learning is effective for teaching architectural design (Eilouti, 2007). Design education is an approach that uses aspects of problem based learning (Gijselaers 1996) Characteristics of problem based learning include ill structured problems based on integration of knowledge thus lending itself well to inform and improve des ign education ( Dabbagh & Dass, 2013) Design education and the design process provide a framework with which to structure the learning environment when learning to solve problems and comprise some of the same characteristics Design instruction also offe rs the opportunity of learning and problem solving to address a technology environment of exponential ly expan ding information, needs of the community and uncertainty in a rapidly changing society (Davis, 1999). Design is inherently not an object, but rath er it is a form of inquiry (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, & Spilka, 1997). Design based problems in which students participate often relate to their lives, school or community (Marschalek, 2008). Students work through the design process as they attempt to so lve problems. Students are guided through the design process defined by Davis, Hawley, McMullan, and Spilka ( 1997, p 2 ) presumes there is more than one right solution to any problem and many p aths to each alternative The design process develops fluency in imag es, words and thinking (Kimball, Stables, Wheeler, Wosniak, Kelly 1991). Students learn to recognize and understand that the problem really does exist and are willing to attempt to co rrect it. The design process requires students get to know the problem, understanding the main issues of the problem in order to define it. Once students are able to understand the problem

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20 they begin research into solutions. The research informs their ideas and they begin to generate solutions to the problem. After examining and evaluating solutions, students must select the best possible way to solve the problem. They then put their idea into action by creating a prototype. Finally, students evaluat e their design by determining the effectiveness of a solution thus making changes as needed. ( See Figure II. 2 for a diagram of the design process ) While the process is cyclical it is also on going requiring students to often go back to research and re work ideas. One of the major differences between the design process and the scientific method is th e former is the cyclical nature Students must evaluate and make changes throughout the process. They also do not start with a hypothesis in the design pr ocess. Rather they start with a problem. (Kimball, Stables, Wheeler, Wosniak, Kelly 1991) Figure I I 2 The Design Process The design process is a cyclical process.

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21 A simplified version of the design process is used with the students, (see figure II.3). The simplified version is easier for students to understand and addresses the need for continuous evaluation of ideas. Because the process is also cyclical, the terms are easier for students to understand and evaluation of their ideas is on going throughout the project. Literature Review Design serves as a framework for instructional practices that guide s students through the problem solving process. P roblem based learning info rms the role of the instructor and role of the students Design as an instructional framework is rather progressive, particularly with a specific focus on reform (Roth 1998). Design based instruction contains real life learning as well as activities tha t are collaborative and make connections across disciplines (Brown, 1992). An important factor in design education that is similar to problem based learning (PBL) is its authenticity to real world tasks and students assumi ng an identity as an architect A s a result of the connection to real life problems students begin to perceive their actions related to a future career (Barab & Dodge 2008). This connection to real life aides in developing life long learning skills, reasoning, and application of knowled ge (Grabinger, Dunlap, & Duffield, 1997). Dialogue and Learning A key component to learning emphasized by both Vygotsky (1978) and Dewey (1934) is the role of dialogue in the learning process. Dialogue, partic ularly language, is a key to cognitive development, through common problem solving experiences (Vygotsky, 1978). Students must engage in active learning through dialogue and

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22 problem solving (Dewey, 1929). Dialogue originally occurs with those taking care of the child, but as the child grows and develops he or she takes a larger role in problem solving. Language becomes the primary tool of intellectual transformation as children mature (Vygotsky, 1978). When children problem solve, they demonstrate attri butes of dialogue (Vygotsky, 1979 & Wertsch, 1980). Children ask questions and find answers and internalize this discussion. Children often collaborate with an expert individual. In the case of the classroom, it is most often the teacher or selective cl assmates. A classroom contains continuous interaction between teachers and students, who are defining and being defined by their learning experience (Wertsch, 1998). This allows learners to participate in activities that are at a higher level than they w ould be able to accomplish on their own. Problem based learning environments allow students to interact with the subject matter and other learners, concepts defined in a successful Education for Sustainable Development ( ESD ) program. Learning needs to occ ur in a situational context that allow s for interactions and struggles in thinking either through individuals, artifacts, ideas, tools or problems (Hung & Wong, 2000). Mishra and Girod (2006, p. 49) state, ory and practice, between constraints and trade with this dialogue that the learner creates meanings, defines ideas and begins to understand (Dewey, 1934). Students who i nteract with the subject matter are able to make connections beyond the classroom. This kind of interaction creates an ideal experience for the student.

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23 Learning also occurs through the use of cultural tools (Vygotsky, 1978). He on the social level, and later, on the individual level; the first, between people 163). Thi s function of cultural development allows for learning through large and small group dialogue, decisions students must make in terms of sustainability while designing, and potentially the individual decisions in sustainable choices the students make as con to the fact that individuals have pre existing knowledge that needs to be examined on a Experiential Learning D esign instruction and sustainability education also draw on the historical tradition of experiential learning introduced by Dewey. Students thrive when they are able to participate in the curriculum (Dewey, 1938). Design based lea rning environments allow students the ability to get involved in addressing the problem, thus creating an experience toward a solution People are impacted by their experience (Dewey, 1938). Since students are impacted by their experiences, providing an opportunity for students to challenge and question established patterns through hands on experience is invaluable for their continued growth. This is supported by Dewey (1938 T he formation of enduring attitudes, likes and dislikes, may be and oft en is much more as more important continual construction of experience (1897/1938). Kolb and Kolb (2008, p. 4) state,

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24 Stable and enduring patterns of human learning arise from consistent patterns of by Mishra and Girod (2006) when they s tate, As the individual acts on the environment, the environment also acts upon the individual. Inquiry and learning, like design, are not simply about understanding and assembling materials. They are fundamentally about ideas and transforming oneself and the world through the process of working with those ideas. (p. 48) Helping students understand sustainability and applying these concepts is an attempt at establishing enduring attitudes. Design also requires that learners determine the essential compone nts of an idea and then represent those ideas (Mishra & Girod, 2006). Mishra and Girod further state when students develop new ideas they develop new way s of understanding and acting within the world. An ideas means one is more fully alive with thought feeling and action Idea formation and creation goes beyond attainment of information rather it is empowering (Mishra & Girod, 2006). This actual process of working toward understanding is also important. Kolb (1984) presents a cyclical model of expe riential learning, consisting of four stages (a) concrete experience (b) reflective observation, (c) abstract conceptualization, and (d) active experimentation. Developing solutions to a design based problem requires students to apply the research and und erstanding they have developed through these processes. Creating a proposal for a sustainable home creates an experience for students t o question their current paradigms. Students must research, propose, experiment and evaluate their solutions as a part process whereby knowledge is created through the transformation of experience

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25 through this experience that students are led to find sustainable solutions to current issues in sustainabi lity. With these solutions students will learn to understand and apply sustainability concepts beyond the classroom. Design instruction offers the opportunity for dialogue within the problem. It offers the opportunity for students to make choices betwee n theory and practice, constraints and trade offs materials and design as well as the designer and users (Mishra & Girod, 2006). With this ongoing discussion and dialogue, meanings and artifacts are defined and understood (Dewey, 1934). Students must a lso understand the essential qualities of an idea and represent their ideas for an audience. New ideas are more than thinking about the world in a different way ; they are about having a different way of being in the world (Mishra & Girod, 2006). To have an idea is to be more fully alive with thought, feeli ng, and action (Dewey, 1934). for is directed by thought and fueled by emotion (Mishra & Girod, 2006) The having of a new idea is more than the acquisition or ap plication of information. It is critical to have Girod, 2006, p 48). Relationship to Sociocultural Concepts of Learning Challenging students to problem solve is further sup ported by the theoretical work of Vygotsky. Children learn through participation in activit ies and within social processes (Vygotsky, 1978). Design based activities allow students a forum to participate in a problem through experimentation, interaction with others, and the opportunity to try out multiple solutions. Students are playing non traditional roles in this project. They are the researchers, developers, and creators of solutions. They work

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26 in cooperative groups and as a result are developing c ritical thinking and conversational skills. Adults need to engage children in tasks that challenge them, initially too difficult, then provide the necessary support to aid in accomplishing the task. This is often defined students through a task, continually helping students improve their skills. Project based and problem based learning environments aide students in developing knowledge as needed to solve problems. Problem s are often above their current skill level or development level. The teacher can facilitate student learning through the problem. In turn students will ask questions or attempt to gain knowledge based on information they believe to be missing (Vygotsky 1978). The ideal learning situation is tailoring instruction to the needs of the student based on an individual s ability and cognition level (Hung, 2001). Students will also seek out experiences in the zone of proximal development that can be enhanced through cooperative rather than individual t asks (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1991) Children working in cooperative environments are thus creating a social context. In these contexts mutual relationships are required for learning, knowing and understanding to take place. As students participate in design problems students must organize and analyze information. They must work both independently and within teams to create viable solutions to problems as well as conduct research. Students must present ideas, negotiate, defend and compromise in the process. As students participate in these kinds of interactions ns of experiences.

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27 Students are using various tools, but also adapting and changing the tools as needed to complete the tasks. Transformation of the tools and how they ar e used and interplay between the various elements constantly lead to the various new outcomes and knowledge being created (Engstrom, 1999). Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) expands on the model : dominant features in human consciousness during active engagement with our world of design education, goes beyond activities that keep students busy. Design activities allow students to become involved and engaged beyond the classroom. In design based classrooms, s tudents are required to work and think like designers. These activities Roth and Lee (2008) believe would promote the creation and replication of culture and it s connection to the built world thus sustaining the culture and as well as the individual (2008). The students, like graphic designers or industrial designers, are subjects of activity systems collectively understanding the motive and goal (Engstrom, 199 9). Problems are authentic and require an understanding across disciplines. Students working in a collaborative team will construct knowledge in an educational setting. The teacher functions as a guide with the learners through the process (Davis, Hawl ey, McMullan, & Spilka, 1997). Students learn in the context of their cultural environment, through social interactions and experiences, and are continuously learning. Bereiter (1994) has defined this process as unintentional learning. It often means i n the context of the classroom that students ; on the contrary in many cases they are learning more about the structure of school and

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28 teacher expectations (Smith, 1998). This is partly due to the focus on skills students can demonstrate on achievement tests (Bereiter, 1994) Tasks and skills are often disconnected from one another. Students study science in one classroom and then move onto a math or language arts classroom with little discussion of the relations between the subject matter. Design connects learning across disciplines and domains (Friedman, 2000). Students must also draw on a variety of resources to create a variety of solutions to problems ( Davis, Hawley, McMullan, & Spilka, 1997). As students participate in design probl ems they are intentionally learning since they are building knowledge through experience and research. Design as Inquiry Often thought of for use only in an art classroom s, design based problems are a catalyst for learning (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, & Spil ka, 1997). Design tasks and the design process focus on real world projects and problems that often connect learning to the community. Design based tasks allow the educator flexibility in methodology, such as cooperative groups and technology as a tool f or learning. Design offers the opportunity of learning and problem solving to address a technology environment of exponential expansion of information, needs of the community as well as the ability to address uncertainty in a rapidly changing society (Da vis, 1999). Design surrounds us. The homes we live in, products we use, information we consume and even the environment we interact in are all designed and shaped (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, and Spilka, 1997). The design of objects is not new. Humans h ave created tools and objects for thousands of years to address problems. However viewing design as an activity is a fairly recent phenomenon (Naveiro & de Souza Pereira, 2008).

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29 As we have become a wealthier society, design has taken on new importance. A larger range of goods and services is available and in larger quantities than ever before (Friedman, 1991). Societies make choices in the items purchased, in how their time is spent or even in the information consumed ; each choice is often determined by their value system. Since design has produced a more comfortable lifestyle, it has not been of little cost. The products consumed and the environments created have come at a societal and environmental cost. However, it is also design that can create solutions. Design can and will contribute to the future and is one of the fastest growing industries (Pink, 2007). The subject of design has been a focus of technology education in the United Kingdom and is becoming a focus in the United States as well (Lewis, 2008). Design allows for open ended problems with multiple solutions and strategies for solving problems (Lewis, 2008). Optimal problem based learning lends itself to a focus on real world problems. Design is a process that requires thoughtful p lanning (Friedman, 1991). This process requires the understanding of several domains: the human world, learning, artifacts, and the environment (Friedman, 1991). Design and design problems force students to think across disciplines for creative solutions (Davis, Hawley, McMullan, and Spilka, 1997). According to Marschalek, design can be categorized into four basic areas : (a) Object design is the design of everyday things. (b) Information design is the creation of web pages, brochures, and other media. (c) Environment design is of places and spaces such as parks, landscapes, and interiors (d) Experience design is the design of events such museum exhibits, theme parks, concerts and more (2008). For the purpose of the research students are participating in environment design.

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30 Students in design based classrooms engaged in higher order thinking skills more often than in traditional classrooms ( Walmsley, 2003). This is further proven by Mishra and Girod when they state, Design activities create opportuni ties to learn about the nature of inquiry itself. First, design forces students to pay attention to the process and consequences of their actions. Second, students learn to appreciate the nonlinear, often messy nature of inquiry. Design tasks are often ill structured and afford many viable solutions. This perspective on knowledge and inquiry is quite different from the epistemological illusion typically found in classrooms, where problems are well defined with clear cut solutions (2006, p 48) Design is a social activity that requires students to communicate and understand the experiences of others. Students must generate and negotiate ideas while they share their knowledge with others to accomplish the task (Mishra & Girod, 2006). Even more importa nt is that design requires students to gather data, conduct research and represent their findings. This forces them to go beyond the classroom walls. Knowledge Building Learning and the creation of knowledge is defined by Bereiter (1994) with the term kn owledge building. The creation of knowledge is often seen in creative businesses and among practicing scientists (Scardamalia & Bereiter, 1996) Knowledge building by students themselves is the most effective for transformational change and growth. Students who actively build knowled ge specifically in design are able to define gaps in understanding and build comprehension for themselves (Eilouti, 2007). Schools and

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31 classrooms that emphasize the building of knowledge are highly successful. Classrooms that foster transformational thou ght for all participants, teachers and students alike are exceptional classrooms (Bereiter, 1994) Knowledge building classrooms focus on authentic tasks, facilitate communication and emphasize the contributions of those involved rather than competition. Learning tasks that occur over time also provide a rich learnin g environment (Barab, Dodge Thomas, Jackson, & Tuzun, 2007) Students must also develop skills to enable them to work together and apply cultural knowledge to specific activities (Hakkarainen, 2009). When tasks are structured with the learners as the focus students have the opp ortunity to be knowledge builders. They are able to build and create connections that lead to conceptual change. Inquiry based tasks that are student directed increase knowledge building (Barab et al., 2007) It is difficult to separate the knowing and doing from the creative as pect of practice (Hakkarainen, 2009). Students are also building expertise as they follow the design process. The building of expertise requires tasks to get more progressively complex (Bereiter, 1994) Inquiry based tasks that are student directed increase knowledge building (Barab et al., 2007) Learning can also be defined by Lave and W egner (1991) by knowing. Knowing is an act that is not static, but rather interactive. Knowing requires interacting with others over time. This idea is further described by Barab, Hay, and Lynch (2001, p 68), perspective, is characterized by an psychological, and social world Because design based problems are authentic, students motivated by real world problems will easily make connections.

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32 Scaffolds for Problem Based Learning Middle school students often struggle with research. Scaffolding can be used as a tool to help students construct knowledge ( Cho & Jonassen 2002). Scaffolding as a tool allows instructors to hel p students organize information and build connections. Scaffolding can be defined as metacognitive strategies, conceptual, or procedural aid that enable students to develop a skill that might be difficult for them to complete unaided (Hamilton et all, 1999 ; Wood Bruner, & Ross 1976). The goal of scaffolding is to meet the needs of students at specific points in a problem and often requires more capable facilitators (Saye & Brush 2002). T he context of PBL support s collaborative knowledge construction wi th the use of scaffolding and can change how student s interact with each al. 2007 ; Lin et al. 2003). S caffold ing helped college and middle school students disting uish between good and poor arguments (Belland), approach argumentation effectively (Belland), and produce coherent arguments (Bell 1997; Cho & Jonassen, 2002). Scaffolding is also a form of dialogue. It is this dialogue that allows the learner to partic ipate in increasingly difficult activities that they may not fully understand (Palincsar, 1986). Palinscar (1986, p.75) The hallmark of scaffolded instruction is its interactive nature. There is ongoing interplay between teacher and learne r in the joint completion of a task (Wertsch, 1980).

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33 Graphic Organizers and Learning The value of graphic organizers to enhance learning in design education is an important outcome of this study. New learning builds on previous knowledge and experience, and it benefits students become highly aware of their existing knowledge before embarking on a new learning experience. Like Dewey, Ausubel (1968, p. 217) believes that experience is a factor in learning: "Ex isting cognitive structure, that is an individual's organization, stability, and clarity of knowledge in a particular subject matter field at any given time, is the principal factor influencing the learning and retention of meaningful new material Ausub significant independent variable influencing the learner's capacity for acquiring more new knowledge in the same field" (1968, p. 130). Therefore clear and well organ ized facilitates the learning and retention of new information (Ivie, 1998, p 35). Graphic organizers are one set of cognitive structures or tools that help students organize information and aid in creating and building knowledge. Graphic organizers offer visual models that equip teachers and students with tools, concepts, and language to organize, understand, and apply information (Gallavan & Kottler, 2007) a s well as assist learners in organizing information so that is understandable and useful for the learner (Meyer & Stull, 2007). Graphic organizers allow students the opportunity to guide their learning, create meaning, and use their information with others (MacKinnon & Deppell 2005). Using graphic organizers whether student generated or prede termined helps students understand new information (Mayer & Stull, 2007). The degree of difficulty and

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34 level of the learner do play a significant role in the most effective method, student generated or a predetermined organizer (Mayer & Stull, 2007).

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35 CH APTER I II M ETHODS AND PROCEDURES Methods The main research question guiding this study is : How can a home design project Students were given a design problem : They must desig n a sustainable home for a family based on a specific location. Students worked through the design process. Students conduct ed research to understand the problem in depth from its importance to making their design sustainable. The study employ ed an act ion research format Action research is a systematic approach for teachers and other school related perso nne l with an in terest in teaching and learning to conduct research and gather data about student progress (Mills, 2003). Action research examines a p roblem systematically and relates practice to theoretical considerations 2001). Action research conducted by teachers offers a valuable contribution by ( Suter 2006) The use of action research by instructors allows f or the applied use of an intellectual model that rests in continuous improvement of teaching techniques and student learning (Young, Rapp, & Murphy, 2010 ). Action research allows the instructor to examine methods and increase knowledge toward improving cl assroom curriculum and learning (Kemmis & McTaggart, 1982). Teachers can and need to take an important role in research. Teachers as researchers of their pupils but also critica l of educational policies, materials or syllabus which affect teachers take an active role

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36 p. 315). While the focus of action research is not on hypothesis testing it does meet the criteria of the scholarship through the (Illinois State University, 2012 ). Data collection included both qualitative and quantitative measures The quantitative aspect evaluate d student growth in their understanding of sustainability from the beginning to the end of the assignment using a pre and post test. The qualitative component examin ed construction of knowledge related to sustainability, actions related to their application of sustainability in their designs and connections they made beyond the project. Data w ere gathered from student final products, student created concept maps stude nt reflections, architects feedback and teacher observations. School Setting and Participants This study was carried out in a middle school of 7 th and 8 th grade students in a large suburban district. The school population is largely middle to upper mid dle class students with some diversity in respect to socioeconomics and culture. The study was conducted in the technology classrooms. The technology class wa s an elective class that r an for a trimester or a total of 12 weeks. Th e specific classes being studied we re t wo 8 th grade technology classes. The classes studied consist ed of t wo groups, each of twenty f ive to twenty seven 8th grade students ranging in ages from 12 14 years. Two students declined to be part of the study. T he t otal number of stu dents participating in the study was 50. One difficult issue occurred during the course of the unit studied. Eight of the 50 students were absent for a week during the unit. Four of those students were absent the final week of the unit.

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37 Instructional Pr actice The project began with the use of the design process. A simplified version of the pro cess called the Design Loop by Hutchinson & Karsnitz (1994) was used with the students ( see figure III.3 ) S tudents begin to understand a problem in stage one S tudents must recognize a problem really does exist and be willing to attempt to correct it. In stage two, students must really get to know the problem. It is essential that students understand the main issues of the prob lem in order to define it. Here t hey begin to conduct research about the problem. Figure III.3 Design Loop The design loop simplifies the design process, making it more accessible to students. In stage three, students begin to conduct research related to possible solutions. They then begin to formulate ideas to solve the problem and search out multiple solutions. In s tage four students begin to formulate and plan out their ideas. They also

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38 must evaluate their ideas during this stage and make adjustments as needed. Stage five requir es the students to provide a detailed solution to their problem. Students must select their best idea to address the problem In s tage six students begin making a plan for creating their final solution. In s tage seven the students work to create their fi nal proposals to the design problem. This stage also requires them to conduct further research as needed and adjust proposal accordingly. In s tage eight s tudents evaluate and reflect on their work. This can be done individually, in groups, or with profe ssionals in the field. S tudents must determine effectiveness of solutio n s and effect s of results. The project began with the first component of the design process : detailing the problem as outlined using the design loop. Students began this part of the project by watching the video, The Story of Stuff www.storyofstuff.org (Leonard, 2007) They discussed the current paradigms seen in the video and how these were created. They then discussed the implications of a different paradigm offered in the video. Students were given homework to work directly with their family on completing the quiz, www. myfootprint .org The quiz asked questions related to lifestyle choices t hey and their famil ies make with regard to food, transportation, travel, and their home and energy use Completion of the quiz resulted in e ach student receiv ing a planet score based on his or her use of resources. Students discussed t he results the foll owing day in class. I asked the students what questions were asked and put them into categories on the board. Students were then presented with the assignment of designing a sustainable home. Students were asked why these categories were important and i f the se would help with research related to their project. During the second stage of the design process students used the categories from

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39 the myfootprint quiz to create a graphic organizer of two column notes (see Figure III.4) to guide their research. Figure 4 demonstrates an example of the graphic organizer. Students worked directly with the teacher librarian to complete the research. The students were given two websites to start their research : www.drea mgreenhomes.com www.ecofriendlyhouses.net After the students had a basic understanding of the vocabulary involved in sustainability, the teacher librarian had students practice search strategies for sear ching and evaluating websites Students then had to find two more websites to add to their notes using skills practiced with the librarian upon introduction to the research component of the lesson. Some of the more useful sites listed by students include d : http://greenliving.nationalgeographic.com/ecofriendly ways build house 3159.html http://www.childrenoftheearth.org/green building sustainable homes/green homes sustainable living index.htm or http://www.nrel.gov/sustainable_ nrel/rsf.html 2 Column Notes Factors Specific Examples with Explanation Energy Heating/Cooling Food Water Transportation Furnishings

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40 Materials Figure II I 4 2 Column Notes 2 column notes are a graphic organizer to aid students in organizing their research data. I guide d the students through the research using the following questions : (a) How did the designers address sustainability in the examples given ? (b) what are the common factors the homes and websites addr essed to make the home sustainable ? (c) What questions did the website www.myfootprint.org ask ?, and (d) How could these factors be addressed in the design? Students discuss ed their findings in a large group di scussion format and developed criteria for a sustainable home design In the next stage, exploring possibilities, students examined green buildings in use. The film Green Architecture: Environmentally Friendly Housing chronicled the process of a sola r home design competition for university students. The film included the websites students viewed. Notable to the students was the use of recycled materials. One h ome used recycled steel of varying colors for the exterior of the home. Another factor was the placement of the home, primarily north and south to take advantage of the lighting and cool ing East and west facing homes tend to heat up too much in the sum mer forcing the use of more air conditioning. A third proposal students reflected on was the use of solar blinds. The students had difficulty thinking of the use of solar beyond solar panels so this innovation helped begin the discussion of incorporatin g

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41 sustainability into the design of the home The architects would later discuss this concept The class also examined architects and buildings that address sustainability. The California Academy of Sciences, a sustainable museum and research facility was one of the examples. The building used the sand dug up at the site for dune restoration, as well as recycled denim insulation and a sod roof. Students also read and discussed a Chicago design competition for low income housing that required proposal s to be sustainable. The students commented on us ing wood from certified forests, building rooms of standard building material lengths, designing for air movement so as to eliminate the need for air conditioning, and using large amounts of insulation. F inally students examined the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. These architects used sustainability concepts before these were popular in architectural designs. Notable to the students was using local materials and materials left over from con struction sites. These architects planned their design around the existing location. The fourth stage, refining ideas, required sketches of design proposals. Students used their notes and resources to plan and begin to sketch out design possibilities. They for which they were designing for the dwelling Students had three locations to choose f ro m, the mountains, suburbs, or the revitalizing neighborhood area near downtown. They a lso had to list the sustainable factors addressed and how they were specifically addressing them. The fifth stage, detailing a solution, required a meeting with the instructor. Students met with me to discuss their designs and sustainability features. Most students made changes to their designs and then further discussed their changes with their

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42 instructor. The sixth and seventh stage s planning the making and then creating required students to build a prototype in Google SketchUp Students worked to transfer their sketches to the computer. Students could choose to watch several self paced tutorials to understand the process of building from the outside in or to start working in the software. The students had worked in SketchUp in their technology c lasses the pr evious year and had some knowledge of the tools, but did not understand how to design a structure from the outside to the inside. Students had to transfer and apply their knowledge of the software to develop their idea. Stage eight, evalua tion was the most effective component of the project. Students met with two guest architects to discuss their design s Th is necessitated having to take feedback and make adjustments as needed. In this step students often returned to their sketches and d id additional research. When the designs were complete students had to write concept statement s about their design s The paragraph s they wrote discussed their goal, design feature s and reasoning behind the sustainable factors. Throughout the project s tudents periodically added ideas to their concept maps as well. Students created concept map s of their learning throughout the process using the mind tool software, Inspiration Lesh and Doerr (2003) define models as, conceptual systems (consisting of el ements, relations, and rules governing interactions) that are expressed using visual notation systems, and that are used to construct, describe or explain the behavior of other system(s) perhaps so that the other system can be manipulated or predicted inte lligently (p 10) Models allow students the ability to construct their own knowledge and can be used to

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43 assess student learning (Jonassen, 2006). Learners that build and change their models construct knowledge that leads to conceptual change and under standing of what they are learning (Jonassen, 2006). Concept maps include d the identification of important features such as sustainability and design, supporting information of each of the concepts, links between them and a reflection on the process. A s part of their concept maps students explain ed their sustainability choices and why they used it in their home. They discuss ed the feedback they received from the architects and how it impacted their design. They made connections between the architects choices. They discuss ed the easy and difficult aspects of their designs. They define d sustainability as it related to their life and what reflect on the class project. Research and Procedures Data collection was compri sed of two data components both quantitative and qualitative to aid in understanding how students used the design process to inform their designs and their understanding of sustainability in an effort to improve instruction. Qualitative Data Qualitativ e data included teacher observations evaluating student concept maps and the final design solution architects feedback, and student reflections The final product include d the design proposal and a paragraph explaining the sustainability factors used i n the design of the home. The concept maps included important factors and relationships defined by students These provide d information on : (a) the understanding of s ustainability : (b) the solutions students attempted in their designs, (c) the ir reasoning

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44 behind their choices, and (d) a snapshot of how students began to solve sustainability issues. Concept maps offer ed a snapshot of the deeper understanding of how learners constructed their knowledge as it relates to the need for sustainability and what connections they made beyond the classroom. Concept maps were evaluated using a rubric ( see figure III.5 ) Concept Map Rubric Benchmark Criteria Example in Map Students demonstrate an understanding of sustainability factors and use in desig n for specific location. Map demonstrates relevant information from notes, sketches, and other resources. Specific factors and examples included Design idea explained Demonstrated goal Students evaluate idea effectiveness of design for location. Map demonstrates links, concepts and reflections that students are able to refine design and identify criteria or evaluate factors that meet needs of design. Links between concepts described Factors evaluated for effectiveness and changes made as needed Students make connections beyond classroom. Map demonstrates several links or connections with lifestyle choices. Concepts provide specific examples of lifestyle change Reflection provides insight into student Figure II I .5 Assessing Understanding of Su stainability The rubric was used to evaluate student understanding demonstrated in concept maps. Final products were analyzed specifically identifying how students addressed sustainability in the designs. Students needed to demonstrate the sustainable f actors determined in the research. Factors include d energy, heating and cooling, water, transportation, materials, and food. These factors acted as keywords in context codes

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45 when analyzing the data. U sing keywords in context allow ed understanding of st meaning of the words and to determine the degree of student understanding. This also indicate d which specific sustainability factors students addressed in their designs why they chose those factors and specifically how students addressed those fa ctors in their designs. Classroom observations w ere also recorded in a daily journal during and at the end of each class. Observations and subsequent recording include d three components, (a) interactions that occurred with students, including student ques tions : (b) teacher feedback and (c) how students used feedback in the designs. The last component of data collection was meeting with the students. The teacher met directly with the students to discuss their grade s and the ide as in their project. Students reflected on several questions in small groups : (a) What were the goals of the design? (b) What can you t ell me about your final design? (c) How did the architects help you with the design? (d) What w as difficult and /or easy about this project? This data was added to students concept statements about their designs. The answers to these questions were recorded and then analyzed using the keywords in context a s well as looking for patterns among student answers. Quantitative Data Pre and post tests were administered to get an overview of student understanding of their learning through the unit. The goal wa s to compare student growth examine the student understanding of sustainability concepts, and assess learning through th e design process. From the beginning to the end of the project the data answer ed how much growth occurred Toward that end, s tudents receive d both a multiple choice and short

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46 answer test of a very limited number of questions Students complete d the tes t on line. S tudent answers were kept confidential. The dependent variable was the post tests on sustainability. Questions on the pre and post test include d : Pre test: How do you define sustainability? Why are sustainable practices important? What choice s do you currently make to live more sustainably? Post test After completing the design task, define sustainability. Why are sustainable practices important? What factors did you add to your home design to make it more sustainable? After completing this u nit, what life style choices did you make or are thinking about making as it relates to sustainability? A scoring rubric used to guide data collection wa s included in Figure III.6 A colleague and I evaluate d student response to the questions. Student answers were then correlated using keywords to analyze for similarities and differences in student responses. These were then grouped accordingly. Having t wo people evaluating student response e nsure d greater reliability both with the rubric and keyword analysis

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47 Pre and Post Test Scoring Rubric CRITERIA EXCEED MEETS MISSED/NOT YET Benchmark #1 Definition of Sustainability Definition address the following: The allocation of resources does not allow for depletion, maintenance of the environment, and conservation. Definition meets one of the requirements: The allocation of resources does not allow for depletion, maintenance of the environment, and conservation. Definition does not meet either of the requirements or uses the ter ms: eco friendly or green ideas. Importance of sustainable practices Listed three reasons for why sustainable practices are important. Listed two reasons for why sustainable practices are important. Listed one reason for why sustainable practice is impo rtant. Benchmark #2 Sustainable factors included in design. Addressed sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, water, food, transportation, furnishings Addressed all but two sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, wate r, food, transportation, furnishings Addressed two sustainability factors in design: energy, materials, water, food, transportation, furnishings Benchmark #3 Lifestyle changes Offers at least three options as to lifestyle choices that have chang es since lesson Offers two options as to lifestyle choices that have changes since lesson Offers one option as to lifestyle choices that have changes since lesson Figure III.6 Scoring Rubric Evaluation of student answers was completed using rubric. A cross analysis by the school librarian and instructor was used to ensure reliability. Student answers were also evaluated using key words in context. Key words in context provided a framework for commonalities among student responses. The internal validity of the study was supported by linking quantitative evidence of student learning to qualitative examples. Pre and Post test s offered a snapshot of student growth when analyzed using the rubric, Figure III.6. However data mined from student reflec tion and concept maps demonstrated specific examples of how students

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48 used sustainability concepts in their design and why. This same data provided insight into specific ways of how students began to rethink applying sustainability concepts to their own li fe. The students gave specific examples of lifestyle changes they made after completion of the unit in both reflections, post test answers, and some students added it as part of their concept maps.

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49 CHAPTER IV FINDINGS Research Findings The main questi on guiding this study was How can a home design project impact Before under taking the study I thought the students would learn problem solving, apply research and use knowledge g ained in math and in the project. The results demonstrate d a greater degree of understanding and application of sustainability concepts and a change in student perceptions than previously understood. As the unit developed from simply completing a project to the use of the design process to guide problem solving s tudent conceptual change in understanding sustainability became of larger importance. The research into student understanding of sustainability followed a similar path from simple to a more compl ex understanding. Six sub questions guided the research : (a) What are middle school student s attitudes and understanding of sustainability before and after a design unit? (b) Why are sustainable practices important? (c) After completion has the project consumption? (d) What sustainable solutions do students propose for home design? (e) How do students approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the architecture project? (f) How did students apply sustainability ideas in their design and why did they make those specific choices? Student Understanding of Sustainability What are middle school student attitudes and understanding of sustainability before and after a design unit? and post tests.

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50 Students completed a pre and post test in an effort to understand overall student growth regarding the basic concept of sustainability. A rubric figure III.6 shown in Chapter 3 was used to ev aluate both pre and post test responses. P re and post tests were evaluated by the teacher and librarian to maintain objectivity in evaluation. Pre test results demonstrate students had limited to no understanding of the concept of sustainability. Q uestio n one ow do you define sustainability ? 48 (96%) of the students received a rating of missed or not/yet based on the rubric. Thirty three (66%) students defined sustainability as something durable 11 (22%) defined it as something that can sustain lif e, 2 (4%) defined it as materials needed to survive where you live and 2 (4%) had no clue Two (4%) of the students were able define sustainability as the use and reuse of resources wisely and to keep them from ending in a landfill, receiving a meets rat ing based on the pre and post test rubric Post test scores ow do you define sustainability showed considerable growth in student understanding. Thirty (60%) of the students were able to meet at least one objective of the definition. Those 30 stu dents defined sustainability as not harming the ability to live in the environment and/or not taking away from the environment Twelve (24%) students gave specific examples of sustainability practices and were able to define it with two or more compon ents from the rubric thus receiving a rating of exceeds according to the rubric. Four (12.5%) students gave specific examples of sustainability and two (4%) specifically defined it as a balance in the use of resources receiving an exceeds rating. Conce pt maps also demonstrated student understanding of sustainability All of the students (100%) were able to define and apply sustainability as it related to their

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51 home design. Seven (14%) students explained sustainability as it related to their home desig n with specific examples such as choose durable materials that would blend in with the location since we are in the Ten (20%) were able to explain that they designed their home to conserve water a W Twenty students (44%) explained specific sustainability concepts they addressed in their h ome s These varied by location and student goal. One group specifically addressed why they choose solar Eleven (22%) students all had a wide range in their explanations for sustainability in their homes ranging from specific design elements to practicing sustainability as a lifestyle. Importance of Sustainability Factors Question two Why are sustainable practices imp ortant ? was also difficult for the students on the pre test Forty six students (92%) were not able to meet the expectation of listing two or more reasons why sustainability practices are important there by receiving a not yet rating and four receiving a meets rating. Student responses were similar to the definition of sustainability. They reasoned the durability was why sustainability was important. Twenty seven (54%) students stated sustainable practices were important for things to last longer These students believed sustainability as something durable rather than use of resources. Ten (20%) students reasoned it was important to sustaining life or sustaining an object. Seven (14%) answers varied from ith no reasoning. Six (12%) students were able

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52 to correctly address two reasons sustainability practices were important. Post test results showed a large amount of growth. Twenty three (46%) students received a meets rating, up from three students on th e pre tests. Seventeen (34%) students received a rating of exceeds compared with one student on the pre test and ten (20%) students received a not yet rating compared with forty six on the pre test. Twenty four (48%) students reasoned that sustainable pr actices were important for a healthy environment and planet. This desired outcome included the need for less pollution in order for future generations to have good environment in which to live. Twenty two (44%) students reasoned it was important to use r esources wisely and to allow for future generations to also have resources available. Three of these students felt sustainability practices were important because there is a growing population on the planet, which would limit available resources. Three ( 6%) believed it was important to rethink current practices in terms of home design and construction and one (2%) believed it was important to save and conserve energy. Students made steady progress from reasoning that sustainability was not only about sus taining life but also the wise use of resources, allowing for the health of future generations.

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53 Table I V .1 demonstrates student growth. Table IV 1 Pre and Post Test Data The table compares pre and post test growth. Question Pre Test Percentage Meeting or Exceeding Break down of answers Post Test Percentage Meeting or Exceeding Break down of Answers Growth Percentage Definition of Sustainability 2: Meets 48: missed/no t yet 4% 96% 33 (66%): durability 11(22%): sustain life 2(4%): survival 2(4 %): no clue 2(4%): using resources wisely 20 exceeds 30 meets 40% 60% 30(60%): not harming environment 12(24%): defined following rubric 4(12.5%): specific example 2(4%):balance of resources 100% meets or exceeds, 96% growth Importance of Sustainab ility Practices 46 missed/no t yet 4 meets or exceeds 92% 8% 27(54%): last longer/durability 10(20%): sustaining life 7(14%): no idea or just that it is important 6(12%): able to address why sustainability was important 17 exceeds 23 meets 10 not yet 34 % 46% 20% 24(48%): healthy environment and plant 22(44%): preserve resources for future generations 3(6%): home design and building 1(2%): conserve energy 80% meets or exceeds 72% Growth Change in Lifestyle 27 not yet 13 meets 10 exceeds 54% 26% 20 % 27(54%): doing one or nothing to address sustainability 13(26%): 2 practices 10(20%): 3 or more practices 25 exceeds 17 meets 8 not yet 50% 34% 16% 25(50%): 3 or more practices 17(34%): 2 practices 8(6%): doing one or nothing to address sustainability 84% meets or exceeds 38% overall growth Data analysis of concept statements also showed considerable student reflection in proved rather challenging at times, but has e nlightened me to the idea of trying to live

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54 were not asked in the concept statements to reflect on the project, but those who did demonstrated insight as to why they believed sustainable practices were important. Changes in Lifestyle Choices The third research q uestion was A fter completing the project has it impacted ideas about personal lifestyle choices in terms of consumption? The data fro m pre and post test student responses demonstrated transfer of their project experience to their own personal lives Prior to the start of the unit, pre test results demonstrated that 27 (54%) of the students offered one or no options in lifestyle choices in terms of sustainability receiving a not yet rating. Thirteen (26%) students offered two specific options of sustainability practices that they currently make receiving a meets rating, and ten (20%) students offered three or more options receiving a n exceeds rating. Post test results demonstrate d significant growth. Twenty five (50%) students actually began to practice at least three specific lifestyle choices related to sustainability. Seventeen (34%) students began two specific practices and ei ght (16%) students had one sustainable practice. Eight (6%) students did not make any choices that were different. to conservation of water to conservation of energy. Data mined from student reflect ions revealed similar information. Forty one (82%) students said they started to make changes Those changes most often included water conservation such as shorter showers and not brushing teeth with the water running cited by 30 (60%) students Energy conservation was cited by ten (20%)

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55 students specifically turning off lights or unplugging appliances and equipment when not in use. Ten (20%) s tudents also cited food choices such as buying local products and /or trying to buy products with less packagi ng. Recycling was also a large component. When surveying the class prior to the assignment, teacher observation notes indicated that less than 30% of the students in the class recycled, while upon completion of the project 40% said they were trying to re cycle. Walking and biking to school were also cited by four ( 8 %) students as ways to conserve after the project. No students cited this in the pre test. Three (6%) students said they did nothing different Interestingly, these same students felt it was too expensive to alter lifestyle patterns. The se same three preferred purchasing solar panels and wind turbines for energy, rather than conserv ing by turning off lights and /or unplugging appliances when not in use. They reasoned that they needed to add things to their home, rather than consume less, which was often part of the discussion. Six (12%) of the students said they would employ sustainable practices in the future when they were living things to their own home such as solar, insulation and energy efficient windows. These students also felt sustainability often required adding to their home rather than altering some lifestyle choices. The difference in numbers indicate s severa l students had multiple answers. Since students we re creating a house from scratch, it wa s difficult for some to think of how to transfer what is discussed and applied in class to specifics in their own life. Examples for specific lifestyle changes were s pecifically discussed in the Story of Stuff movie, the myfootprint quiz, and accompanying class discussions. Specific examples given in these sources ranged from lowering consumption rates to recycling.

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56 Water conservation was often cited as a factor stude nts started to address and specifically taking shorter showers, using only what is needed not irrigating landscaping, and turning off water while brushing teeth. Energy conservation included turning of lights, lowering the thermostat in winter and raisi ng it in summer, as well as using renewable energy if possible. Food conservation included buying local ly produced goods However many of the examples provided in the resources we re seen in student reflections and post test answers. Student Proposed Sustainable Solutions The fourth question, hat sustainable solutions d id students propose to home design ? Students answered this question on multiple levels. Students were required to complete a concept map of their designs. One of the components of the concept map required students to reflect on the sustainability factors used and why they were used as well as the goals of their design. Students also conducted research compiled in a graphic organizer of two column notes. Using their data from rese arch they were required to complete a sketch of their ideas for a specific location with a listing of sustainability factors. Students selected their best design and discussed their design with the instructor. With the instructor students evaluated the ir designs based on the sustainability factors and feasibility of their designs. Students set out to complete their designs using Google SketchUp They met with the architects for further evaluation of their designs. Students then completed a final desi gn proposal and a concept statement describing their design and sustainability factors used. The use of the design process to help students solve the problem makes it important to understand how students approach ed and tr ied to solve sustainability iss ue s

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57 in the architecture project Teacher observation notes indicated a ll of the students set out to design a sustainable home, as that was the design problem given. After completion, students reflected on their designs. Surprisingly and unexpectedly ref lections indicated 50 (100%) of the students began with personal goals for their designs. Specifically, seven (14%) of the students responded that the primary goal of their design was to address living needs for a family while creating a sustainable home These students set out to create a home that they would want to live in see figure IV.7 for a student example Figure IV. 7 Student Example 1 This student example employed the use of small home design with the goal of designing a home they would want t o live in The student also addressed furnishings on the inside of the home such as under floor heating, energy efficient appliances, and the use of non toxic paints and glues. Five (10%) of the students responded their primary goal was to use renewab le energy as part of their design. Four (8%) of the students responded that their specific goal was to address sustainability needs based on the location they had chosen for their design see

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58 figure, IV.8 Figure IV.8 Student Example 2 This group add ressed the multiple sustainability factors for a home in the suburbs. Seven (14%) students had a specific design goal s related to the look of the house, or to a specific feature of the space see figure IV.9 Figure IV. 9 Student Example 3

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59 This stude nt proposed design demonstrates the use of a goal focused on using different shapes than the standard square or rectangle Ten (20%) students set out to address water or energy usage. Three (6%) believed in building small structures. Twenty two (44%) stu dents had the same goal of the design problem, to simply address sustainability in their design (t he difference in numbers is that several students had multiple goals ) Students with a goal that went beyond sustainability, such as designing a small home fo r a family or for themselves had designs that were more successful in terms of overall quality and demonstration of understanding of sustainability This was further supported by the architects upon reflection. The architects specifically stated having students set a goal beyond sustainability would help to improved designs. Student example of this is see n Figure IV. 10 and IV. 11. Figure IV. 10 Student Example 4 This student proposed design demonstrates sustainable design through the goal of designing a smaller home, 500 square feet, roof top gardening, and the use of electric car.

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60 Figure IV. 11 Student Example 5 This student proposed design demonstrates sustainable design through the goal of designing a smaller home and the use of two energy sourc es, wind and solar. Making Choices about Sustainability Many students could easily pick sustainable products and place them in the home because of their research. They had greater difficulty in determining which would work best for their location and th eir personal goals for their design. The fifth and sixth questions were examined using student reflections, concept maps, discussions with the architects and concept statements. So exactly how did they apply sustainability ideas in their design and why did they make those specific choices? Also, h ow do students approach and try to solve sustainability issues in the architecture project? The first thing that is evident is that the students applied research from their two column notes into their designs. This is supported by the architect visit and reflection with the teacher.

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61 Teacher observation notes indicate that the architects stated most of the students were why they needed certain things and what other possibilities were available, referred to by the architects and As a result of the architect evaluation, the instructor worked directly with students to help them understand why they needed to address sustainability factors and what would work best with their design. This work is evident in student concept statements about their homes. Students address ed energy, heating and cooling, food, water, transportation, and building material s. While furnishings square footage and area were discussed and important, these were the two most difficult aspects of designing for the students. Square footage requires students to pay attention to scale and transfer of knowledge of math concepts in a new setting, which as stated previously, was a difficult concept for students. Secondly, most of the sustainability factors can be addressed on the exterior rather than the interior. Students ha d the most fun building interiors, but generally r a n out o f time. Several groups ran out of class time to complete the inside of their home. Forty eight (96%) of fifty students were able to discuss addressing six or more or more of these factors into their designs. The class also spent time examining the wo rks of famous architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry. It is evident that several of the students used similar he used materials from the building site in the building and furnishings. Frank Gehry used materials left over from construction sites for his own home, thus repurposing materials. Fourteen students indicated the use of local materials from the building site be used in the construction or furnishings of their own Ten (20%) different students cited the use of

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62 repurposed materials in their furnishings or materials. The students also examined the green architecture proposals from a Chicago city design competition and discussed the video, Green Architecture: Envi ronmentally Friendly Housing Some of the design ideas presented included the use of higher ceilings, placing two windows per room to reduce the need for lighting, sod roofing, wood from certified forests, no n toxic paints and glues, durable materials, an d avoiding costly air conditioning by designing homes to maximize air flow. The video chronicled a solar home design competition for university students. It emphasized the importance of placement of a home, primarily north and south, recycled materials, and alternative ways to use solar in the design. Thirty one (62%) students cited the use of one or more of these ideas in their designs. While students discussed these ideas in class and added them to their notes, they did not spend as much time working with these ideas as they had done with the initial research. It is a significant outcome to see that so many students used one or more of these ideas in their designs. Table IV.2 further breaks down student application of research.

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63 Table IV. 2 De monstration of Student Learning This table further demonstrates student learning and the students application of the research in their designs. Data Source Factors Addressed Examples Confirms Learning Concept Maps Energy Solar, wind for the Number of sunny days Cited by 46 students Designs Materials Size of home because of use of less resources Local materials if mountain design Cited by 18 students Reflections Conservation Low flow showers and toilets, energy efficient appliances Cited by 26 studen ts Concept Statements Materials Food Stone and brick for durability Greenhouses, gardens and food delivery based on location Cited by 46 students Students design goals often drove some of the sustainability factors included in their designs. A sma ll home design led students to think about how to best utilize the space in their home and incorporate specific design features such as durable materials or passive solar. Materials such as brick and stone were chosen because they are durable Solar was cited as used by forty six (94%) of the students because Colorado has abundant of sunny days. Students who chose mountain home designs often also added wind turbines because the architects suggested having more than one energy source when ever possible. S uburban designs that included wind in their plan worked with vertical access wind turbines. The size of the home was a factor in sustainability for eighteen designs. These students explained their design used fewer resources from building material to

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64 en ergy use to heating and cooling. Food was another factor addressed by students that varied with location of the home. Mountain designs often contained greenhouses where as suburban designs often contained gardens. Students not interested in growing food discussed the use of grocery delivery and buying at local markets. Conservation played a role in twenty six (42%) designs. This was evident in the use of low flow showers and toilets as well as the use of energy efficient appliances as part of the desig ns. While water, materials, transportation and heating and cooling were addressed these considerations as much by location than as design choices made by students Transportation encouraged the use of walking, biking and public transporta tion when ever possible or the use of electric car s Water was addressed often through conservation and catchment systems for watering landscaping. Native materials were considered in that several students with mountain designs did try to use locally grow n materials in their home. The concept statements about student designs further demonstrate insight into their thinking about the project. Several students had some very interesting reflection s on uilt this project on this location started off we never really knew about the word su it has a definition that inspires us to think outside the box. Many people could sketch their house and create a model in Google SketchUp But when we took that sketch and created a model we had to think about th e energy sources and materials and ways to make it eco

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65 of stone and bamboo and that worked w unique goal was discussed by this student who opted for a small home of about 500 square feet : based solely on rectangles. I chose this type of design and space manipulation so I could house that anyo ne could live in. From there, I simply applied eco friendly factors to Post lesson r eflection by the students on what they learned demonstrated growth in applying s ustainability concepts. Twenty two (44%) students reflected they had learned not only a number of ways to address sustainability in the design of the home, but also ways they can live more sustainably today. They all provided specific examples of items a nd practices used in the design or on a personal level. Twenty students (44%) discussed learning how to design a home or discussed learning very specific sustainability factors they then applied to their home design. They cited that location made a diffe rence in the sustainability choices they made. Placing solar panels on the south side of the home was essential or choosing a smaller home meant using less resources. Sixteen (32%) students cite d understanding sustainability concepts or sustainability in general was a major factor they learned. Several students had multiple listings of what they learned, thus the variance in numbers. Sketching was another component of the process that students identified as both difficult and easy. Thirty nine (78%) of students reflected that, sketching and deciding

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66 what factors to address was the easiest part of the process from research to design. They still had specific difficulties with sketching, but overall this was the easiest part of the design process. Thes e students specifically cited that the easiest component of the sketching process was deciding what factors to address in their designs. Seven (14%) of appealing to using feedback from the ar chitects or designing for the location as rather easy parts of the process. The students had difficulties evaluating their own planning sketches. Ten (20%) students designing for the suburbs often included large wind turbines. The teacher asked students if they might want to live next to a wind turbine themselves. Many of the students stated no. They were then given options for alternative types of turbines, such as vertical access turbines that are smaller and can easily be used when houses are in clo se proximity. These ideas were often provided for the students as they have limited knowledge of actual possibilities. Two (4%), students were also asked where the best place to put solar panels on their home might be. Many had not thought about needin g them on the south side of the home, or incorporating solar panels into the design or look of the home. Three (6%) students placing their homes in the mountains often put in gardens as part of their design. I discussed growing seasons and the limitation this may impose. Students often adjusted with the use of grocery delivery, planning for animals or, in the case of one group, adding a larger deck to accommodate house plants in pots. Other considerations included working to buy local ly grown produce or adding a greenhouse into their design. Four (8%) students had issues addressing each of the sustainability factors in their sketches for which they had conducted research. The

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67 students worked directly with the teacher to address missing factors and work ed to choose the best based on their location. Another problem students had in sketching was matching the look of their designs with the floor plan ideas. This was observed in both teacher notes and student reflection. Thirty seven (74%) students c ited sketching difficulties such as working with the floor plan, getting the sketch to look the way they had envisioned the home or mapping out two story homes. The instructor worked directly with students to plan stairs, hallways and placement of rooms based on student designs. This was very important to be done correctly, especially when working in SketchUp For students to be highly successful with their designs, the software required students to design from the outside by creating the basic shape of the house and pushing and pulling shapes as needed for their designs. Students transferred their sketches to building actual professional looking proposals with the software. Students were divided about the ease of using the design software Actually, working in the program was where some students felt the most comfortable. Many cited that was because they worked in SketchUp in seventh grade. Twenty two (44%) of the fifty students responded they felt comfortable working in the program. However, the rest responded that actually making their design work in Google seventh grade technology class the project required designing an interior space of several rooms. So I at least knew how to use the tools but had difficulty figuring out how to make the design work This project required students to design an entire house, and they started on the outside and worked their way to the inside. It was the opposite thinking process. This was further cited by six (12%) other students who stated the most difficult part was using

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68 what they knew from SketchUp math, and science classes, but in a very different way. Students had to apply knowledge of climate, clean energy, scale, and calculating area. to use math and science in a different setting which was difficult for many. This transfer of knowledge represents a higher level skill and was one of the goals of the project. Another difficulty cited in working with the technology was getting the design to look and work the way students wanted. While students understood the use of tools, they had difficulty understanding how to use the tools to get what they wanted. Once students were working in SketchUp students on technical difficulties with their models or using specific tools. In total 36 homes were proposed out of fifty students participating in the study. The difference accounts for the fact that students were allowed to work with partner s Based on teacher observation, students had great difficulty measuring and making the house to scale and then making adjustments as needed. While studen ts learned how to calculate area in their seventh grade math curriculum, they had difficulty applying this skill when asked to do this as part of their new design. Scaffolding by the instructor was provided based on the zone of proximal development of ind ividual students. The instructor worked with students in small groups to review the concept. Next, based on observation notes, students had to measure and calculate the area of their home. If it was too large or small (as was true for eight homes) the t eacher taught students how to adjust their designs as needed. Four homes were designed around a specific concept such as a circle. These particular designs required more technical knowledge of the software than the students possessed. Thus, the instruct or spent time helping the students work with the

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69 tools to get what they needed. Ten (20%) students had difficulty creating a pitched roof in their design. They were taught how to do this which they then could add to their design. Four groups (16%) worked on their home from the inside first and as a result their homes had to be reworked. The instructor worked directly with these groups and these problems often took most of a class period to fix. The instructor did divide tasks so as to have knowledgeable students teach technical concepts to other less knowledgeable students on technical issues with the software, so that their focus was only on working with the students on sustainability and design. Students reflected that the difficult part of the design was to decide what specific sustainable components to add for the design and location. Thirty four (68%) of the students cited making the design work for the location and incorporating sustainability an eco friendly home was difficult when making choices about what factors to address students received and subsequently discussed in their concept maps was also demonstrated in their final home design proposals. The architects reported that many of the students applied sustainability components to their design, or specific objects like s design concepts such as window placement or which direction their home faced. They factors and specific items they would p always understand why or how design can address sustainability itself. Student reflection in their concept maps supported this awareness. Thirty five

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70 (70%) students cited feedback from the architects a bout incorporating sustainability factors into the design of the home as being very helpful. These students specifically noted that the types of windows placed on the north and south sides of the home based on their location were something they changed af ter the architects input. Ten (20%) of the visit as evidenced in their final proposals. Students whose homes were located in suburban Denver, for example, worked to place larger windows on the north side for light to avoid over heating in summer. Teacher observation notes also indicated students had difficulty understanding which direction the home was facing and the instructor addressed this by demonstrating how to have the shadows showing while working as well as how to rotate an entire house as needed Another common design feature discussed by the architects was adding landscaping around the home (such as bushes, shrubs and shade trees) This was shown to help with energy efficiency, heating and cooling, as it acted as insulation. The architects sugge sted this in 6 (12%) of the designs as referenced by the students in reflections. The architects also discussed incorporating solar panels into the actual design of the house rather than just panels on the roof. An example cited in the video for stude nts was the use of solar window shades. Passive solar was another option for students, but a difficult concept for them to understand in designing. Four (8%) students stated they did address this in the final designs by specifically placing solar panels i n overhangs in decking areas.

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71 The architects discussed energy use and subsequently cited by 17 (34%) students was to add more than one energy source into their design. The most common combination was to use both wind and solar as a result of this feedba ck. Ultimately, 19 (38%) students added solar and wind to their design, and 6 (12%) students decided to use geothermal energy for heating and cooling with solar. This is an interesting phenomenon since nine more of the students added two forms of energy to their designs than discussed with the architects. This could mean students did discuss this with each other. Summary After analyzing the data, it was apparent that students started with a limited o r no understanding of sustainability concepts. This was further evidenced by the questions and push back received form the video and my footprint quiz. Teacher observation notes demonstrated that student interest varied in the beginning. Students asked questions related to how these policies were put into place, how can they be changed to meet the needs of today and, what can be done to make a difference. Some students pushed back, with statements such as M ideas or I like to have a lot of stuff so I am not going to listen. The quiz challenged students to analyze their own and their famil habits. Students reported their planet scores to the teacher. The class range on average was 4 8 planets would be needed to live our current lifes tyle if all people on the planet lived the way the students currently do. Students d idn the question, how many planets do we actually have to live on? Th is driving discussion question from the footprint quiz o pened students to think about their options. Students discussed the questions asked, concerning food, water, transportation, housing and energy

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72 use. They brainstormed ways they currently can make different choices as a class a s evidenced in the lifestyl e changes students stated they made. Upon review of the post data it was apparent that students we re able to understand sustainability and define it in their own words. All of the students, 100% were able to define sustainability appropriately after com pletion of the unit. Prior to the start of the unit only 4% of the students could correctly define it. This not only demonstrates a tremendous amount of growth, but also that concept was new to the students and they were able to grasp and understand aft er completing the project More importantly students we re able to apply it to their own lives even if only at a minimal level. They began to think about their personal choices. Design based learning provided a framework for students to address a rather complex problem based instruction. It challenged the students to begin to think about the consumption paradigms and begin to provide alternatives. Students were able to begin to understand how to apply the concepts in their designs and why it was import ant to do so The concept statements about their work and the goals each student beg a n with demonstrated a growth in the understanding of the project. Interestingly, not one student proposed a multifamily dwelling. All designs were single family homes with large yards, many with fences around them. This after discussing the use of resources in class and ways to use less no student s were able to go beyond the co mmon single family structure

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73 CHAPTER V DISCUSSION The study began as a means to understand student learning as it relates sustainability and applying sustainability concepts in technology education The findings were intended to improve classroom instruct ion. A review of the literature indicates that sustainability is needed in the technology education classroom. Design education framework with the aide of problem based learning environment and scaffolded instruction were used to address sustainability education. It was proven that this process can create an environment that allows students to question the current paradigms in which they take action to make changes. The main question that guided the research, ow can a home design project impact mid provide d a basis for reflection. Design education with the use of technology can be an effective tool for conceptual change. Students began the unit with limited to no understanding of sustainability concepts Upon completion of the unit all of the students were able to define sustainability and apply sustainability concepts More importantly, a majority of the students actually applied specific concepts to their own personal lives, thus changing their attitudes regarding the importance of sustainability further proving conceptual growth. Design based education also provided an ideal framework for guiding students through the problem solving. Students were successful in their de sign proposals. All students were able to apply some of the research conducted in class to their final designs and explain how sustainability concepts were used, both in their concept statements and

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74 reflect ions Students were able to directly reflect and evaluate their designs with the architects and make changes as needed. Students also cited this as an important and worthwhile process in their concept maps. The design process also proved invaluable in guiding students through problem solving. Not onl y did the process provide scaffolding for students, it enabled them to begin to develop problem solving skills that can be transferred into other contexts. The findings regarding student learning provide support for Vygotsky learning and develo pment. Students were ready to grasp sustainability concepts, demonstrating a 96% growth rate. Students were able to grasp these concepts with the correct supports, and the unit therefore, was in the zone of proximal development. Dialogue is a key to cog nitive development Students were engaged in a problem solving experience, a key component to learning emphasized by both Vygotsky and Dewey. From this experience students were able to apply sustainability concepts to their designs and internalize goals that were greater than the design problem. They set goals such as creating a sustainable home that a family would actually want or a house they would live in. Students were also able to apply these concepts into their personal lives. Dialogue is a majo r component of development and learning according to Vygotsy and Dewey. Students were able to actively participate in the problem solving process through the use of dialogue. More importantly student concept maps and reflections demonstrated the various kinds of dialogue that lead to student learning. Students discussed, reflected and evaluated their work with professionals in the field, the instructor, classmates, and through their writing . They demonstrated application of research in their designs an d concept statements about their work. Their sketches and

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75 final designs often changed as students worked through the problem, demonstrating internal dialogue as well. Interpretation and Meaning of Findings When I began this project and the study I expect ed some growth in student that all of the students would be able to define sustainability, nor actually apply sustainability concepts to their personal life. It confirmed my hypothe sis and theoretical framework that problem based learning environments with adequate scaffolding can be an effective method for delivering instruction that challenges students and is also motivating to lead to overall conceptual change. Developmentally th e group studied consisted of 12 14 year old students and sustainability is a difficult concept. Some parents of students in the school view the need for sustainability as political rather fact ual thus making conceptual change a more difficult process fo r some of those students. The considerable growth in application sustainability concepts shows students open to change, particularly after participating in the design problem After completing the project 74% of the students had made two or more change s in their personal habits related to sustainability. Reflections completed by the students demonstrated 82% of the students did make some changes. Their answers concerning specific habits they changed related to water conservation, saving electricity, w alking and riding bikes, and buying local produce. Recycling was also cited by students. This demonstrates the students cared enough after the completion of the project to begin making small, but incremental changes.

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76 Students demonstrated considerable growth in the understanding and application of sustainable solutions to their designs. They were able to propose authentic solutions to the problem and apply their research. Students followed the design process throughout the project. They started with planning sketches, added information from their research and discussed their designs with the architects. Their proposals then changed based on feedback from the architects. Students cited making specific changes to their designs based location and feedb ack from the architects and the instructor. They also cited using specific ideas from research that they applied in their designs. Feedback by the architects in particular proved to be invaluable to student growth. Students are accountable to the design s when they meet with the architects and must defend their goals and purpose. When students received feedback they immediately changed their designs, but were also able to grasp the importance of getting it right in their designs. Receiving or accessing information at the moment it is needed further supports the until they were needed to complete a task in their designs. It is this time sensitive introduction that is important to note when helping students grasp deeper concepts such as sustainability or problem solving. Implications The study has some implications on future instruction in my classroom I am aware of student difficulties and will address them in class room instruction. One difficulty cited by the student was transferring the sketch to a design in SketchUp Guiding students through the process by having them draw a simple object and recreate

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77 in SketchUp could help. Providing easy access to video tutor ials that demonstrate how to use SketchUp for common building issues will also be helpful. Working directly with students on drawing to scale and building basic drawing skills may help. This may also provide assistance for understanding and applying the mathematical concepts learned in math class to the technology classroom. Students had difficulty applying these concepts when needed. Teacher review and small group instruction were used in class, and did help the students. More review is needed in how to help students with this thinking process. Another interesting aspect that emerged from the data was that students could use why they used them or the benefit ba sed on location. This is a critical component of the process and a higher level thinking skill. Direct work with students on understanding how sustainability can be accomplished through design is needed. Data from teacher observation notes also indicat ed a large amount of instructor time was helping with technology issues. The focus really should be on working with student designs and discussing their ideas. Creating an easily accessible database of videos for students may prove to eliminate some of t his time. The study also demonstrates students are able to handle sustainability concepts at this age and apply these to their own lives Implications for Technology Instruction Technology education needs to be more than teaching software. Sustainabilit y education can be a valuable part of a middle school technology curriculum as the concept

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78 goes beyond the teaching of software. Rather it enables to teachers to address current issues, connect learning beyond the classroom and provides problems that chal lenge students to think beyond their comfort zone. The use of technology enables quick access to resources and software that enables students to create final designs that look professional The study provides a case that technology education leading to co nceptual change needs to be about problems that go beyond software A ttributes from problem based learning help set the stage for higher level concepts such as sustainability that lead to the conceptual change desired. Providing adequate scaffolding thro ugh the design process and helping students through research tasks and organizing their information is also an essential component. Sustainability can be addressed in the classroom through a variety of problems and projects. Reaching out to professiona ls working on current issues is an ideal way to develop problems that help students connect learning beyond the classroom. The architects in this study have proved to be invaluable in the development of the project, the scaffolding of the lesson, and inte rventions students needed. Professionals working directly with the students enables them to understand that the classroom expectations for the problem are not different than tasks preformed for specific careers. Building problem based tasks takes time and is a learning process. Design experiments provide a guide for building instruction that includes reflection and understanding of how classroom elements contribute to student learning and understanding. Using design experiments as a guide can aid instruc tors in developing higher level lessons that build knowledge and conceptual change. Instruction varies by

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79 grouping of students. Design education and the design process allow for flexibility in addressing student needs. Implications for Design Based Ins truction This study provides support for the effectiveness of design based instruction as an approach to raising the understanding and appreciation of middle school students for sustainability while building technical and conceptual knowledge and skills. The design process is an ideal vehicle to guide students through when examining difficult problems and creating solutions. Sustainability, while a difficult concept, can be understood by middle school students with the help of facilitated instruction. It follows the princip le s of the zone of proximal development. Experiential learning allows students a hands on working environment in which to explore ideas, discuss and reflect on ideas, and apply knowledge. The findings from this study demonstrate the sustainable architecture design problem is an effective lesson that meets the needs of learners, but challenges them to think differently while they apply previous knowledge. The work with professionals in the field also proved to be an invaluable compone nt to the lesson. The professionals gave authentic insights into the students thinking and process allowing me to address student needs. They also gave feedback on the lesson, offering suggestions for improvement and different ways to focus the lesson depending on learning objectives. T he architects provided v aluable resources and information related to design, sustainability and working with architectur e to aid in instruction and learning.

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80 Implications for Research and Further Questions for Study Understanding how students thought about their designs through interviewing would be of interest. Continuous i mprovement of curriculum and teaching on sustainability at the middle school level would be helpful as there are limited studies currently avail able. The results of the study will be used to improve the instruction of the research component of the unit. However, some questions need to be discussed further. Are students able to carry their understanding of sustainability beyond one lesson or for a temporary amount of time? Are students able to apply the design process to other problems they encounter in both technology and core classes? Do other design based projects that address sustainability have similar impact on student learning? Limitat ions The study had some limitations Student work was the primary data source. A large portion of the study included the evaluation of student writing through concept statements, answers to pre tests, and reflections. Data can be limited if students are not comfortable writing Several students were absent during the last week of the project. Five students between the two classes were absent for an entire week. This made getting their work completed as well as working and meeting with them about their project difficult and had they not been absent their reflections and post test answers may have been different This study only evaluated student learning during a project with a small sample size. This may make it difficult to apply to a larger settin g. Design based instruction should not be reserved for the art or technology classroom. Students who build skills for the 21 st century need more experience with problem solving and problem solving processes. The science classroom can provide

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81 high quality problems that require more in depth study than the scientific method. The design process is but one example. Educators no longer the luxury of not addressing sustainability concepts in any school curriculum. School curricul a that create s learners who q uestion the current paradigms compel other subject areas to address these concepts in instruction and in school wide practices. Students can and are willing to apply sustainability concepts in their own lives when presented with problems that help begin co nceptual growth. The project allow ed students to begin questioning current paradigms and consumption patterns, creating learners who are building their critical thinking skills while addressing the needs and interests of middle school students, using techn ology. The study gave a glimpse of how students address sustainability factors in their own designs, how students apply research knowledge into a design problem and that hopefully students can begin to take what they have learned in a classroom setting a nd apply it to their own lives

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