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Classroom Conversations for Young Engineering Learners

Design Talks are whole-class discussions that teachers facilitate with pre-college students. As supplements to engineering design activities, these conversations help students share and listen to thinking about design problems and solutions. Through Design Talks, teachers can support students not just to construct their designs, but also to construct knowledge about how their designs work in the world.

In this website, our team of teachers and researchers describes  different genres of Design Talks and shares video examples from 1st through 6th grade classrooms.


Of course, much engineering learning takes place through building, prototyping, and testing. But whole-class Design Talks can supplement hands-on learning by:

Helping students clarify their thinking by sharing with others

Giving students opportunities to learn from each other’s thinking

Prompting students to consider certain aspects of their designs

Supporting students to draw connections across ideas

Encouraging students to reflect on the impact of their design and how it might be used in the world


Engineering design is more than just developing technical solutions to problems. It also involves examining the social, historical, and political contexts of design problems & solutions. With Design Talks, teachers can help students develop a perspective of care (Gunckel & Tolbert, 2018)  in engineering design. 


Because engineering design involves multiple ways of thinking about problems, it can make space to value different students' assets for learning, particularly those strengths that are not often recognized in the classroom.  With Design Talks, teachers can foster inclusion in engineering. 

Design Talks offer opportunities to encourage inclusive classroom

discourse that fosters a perspective of care in engineering. 

Classroom Video Examples

The Design Talks videos are intended for use by educators for professional development purposes only. To access the videos, please sign up or log in using your school-affiliated email address.

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