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A State-wide Professional Development Program in Engineering with Science and Math Teachers in Alabama: Fostering Conceptual Understandings of STEM

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Addressing the NGSS, Part 2 of 3: Supporting K-12 Science Teachers in Engineering Pedagogy and Engineering-Science Connections, Part 2 of 3

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.106.1 - 24.106.24



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Paper Authors


Christine Schnittka Auburn University

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Dr. Christine Schnittka is an assistant professor in the College of Education and the department of curriculum and teaching, with a joint appointment in the College of Engineering. Her current research involves developing and evaluating engineering design-based curriculum units that target key science concepts and environmental issues through the contextual lens of problem-based learning. Prior to receiving her Ph.D. in science education at the University of Virginia, Dr. Schnittka was a middle school teacher and administrator for 10 years, and prior to that, worked as a mechanical engineer. She has published her work in journals such as the International Journal of Science Education, the International Journal of Engineering Education, Advances in Engineering Education, The Science Teacher, and Science Scope.

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George Edward Turner Jr. Auburn University

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George Turner is currently a doctoral student in the department of curriculum and teaching (science education) at Auburn University. He holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physics from Tuskegee and Fisk universities. His research interests include policy issues related to teacher preparation programs in secondary science as well as social issues that impede student success in STEM fields.

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Randall William Colvin Auburn University

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Mary Lou Ewald Auburn University

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A state-wide professional development program in engineering with science and math teachers: Fostering conceptual understandings of STEMThe BLINDED project is a 3-year teacher professional development (TPD) initiative designed tostimulate project-based STEM education throughout the state of Alabama. The immediatepurpose of the project is to increase the number of middle school students in Alabama whoparticipate in STEM-centered, project-based learning activities and programs that promoteteamwork, problem solving, critical thinking skills, and authentic, real-world situations. Teacherprofessional development, when it is sustained, intensive, and content focused, has the potentialto significantly and positively impact not only teacher performance, but student learning (Yoon,Duncan, Lee, Scarloss, & Shapley, 2007). Through a targeted and intense professionaldevelopment experience, middle school science and math teachers in this study learned how toimplement engineering design into their existing science and math classes. The long-term goal ofthis intervention is to positively impact student achievement in math and science in the state ofAlabama. The need for improved student achievement in this state is dire. In 2011, Alabama 8thgrade students ranked 48th in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress(NAEP) science test (IES, 2011), and Alabama ranked 41st in 2011 on the science portion of theACT with an average score of 20.1 (ACT, 2011). There is much room for improvement.During the first year of the initiative, teachers across the state participated in TPD designed toprovide foundational training in implementing engineering design in their classrooms. UsingBLINDED STEM curricula, which are engineering design-based modules developed by Author(2009, 2011), teachers learned the fundamental science and mathematics associated withalternative energy resources, energy transfer, and energy sustainability through problems relatedto environmental issues that affect animals.With support from the Alabama State Department of Education, the team utilized the existingnetwork and infrastructure of the statewide BLINDED science and math network in a “train-the-trainer” model to recruit and provide PD for 130 middle school math and science teachers duringsummer 2013. In May 2013, 16 math and science middle grades specialists (trainers) from 8 ofthe 11 regions participated in a three-day workshop. Following the workshop, trainers in each ofthe eight regions recruited over 120 middle school math and science teachers from their serviceregions and conducted separate three-day workshops using the same curriculum modules. Thesestatewide satellite workshops were observed by project staff in order to assess fidelity ofimplementation and offer assistance.Evaluations of science content knowledge and attitudes were administered to the 16 trainers anda total of 120 teachers prior to and after the trainer workshop and the separate teacherworkshops. The primary qualitative instrument was an open-ended questionnaire developed bythe researchers. Other instruments were valid and reliable multiple choice instruments thatassessed science conceptions (Author, 2009), the Likert-scale Teaching Engineering Self-Efficacy Scale (Yoon, Evans, & Strobel, 2012), and a Likert-scale instrument that assessedattitudes toward engineering (Author, 2009).   ReferencesACT (2012). 2011 ACT national and state scores. Downloaded from (2009).Author (2011).Institute of Educational Sciences [IES] (2011). Science 2011: National assessment of educational progress at grade 8. Washington, DC: US Department of Education.Yoon, Y.S., Evans, M.G. & Strobel, J. (2012). Development of the Teaching Engineering Self- Efficacy Scale (TESS) for K-12 Teachers. In Proceedings of American Society of Engineering Education Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX  

Schnittka, C., & Turner, G. E., & Colvin, R. W., & Ewald, M. L. (2014, June), A State-wide Professional Development Program in Engineering with Science and Math Teachers in Alabama: Fostering Conceptual Understandings of STEM Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--19998

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2014 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015