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A Survey of Former GK-12 Fellows

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-12 Professional Development I

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.117.1 - 23.117.21



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Paper Authors


Jed S. Lyons University of South Carolina

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Dr. Jed Lyons is professor of Mechanical Engineering and interim associate dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Engineering and Computing at the University of South Carolina. His passion is developing hands-on learning experiences for engineering students from grades K through Ph.D.

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Erica Pfister-Altschul University of South Carolina

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Erica Pfister-Altschul has a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from MIT, and an ME in Mechanical Engineering from the University of South Carolina. In addition to eight years of industry experience, she spent one year as a GK-12 Fellow while in graduate school. She is currently pursuing an M.S. at the University of South Carolina, studying GIS modeling methods in the Geography department.

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A Survey of Former GK-12 FellowsThe Graduate STEM Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) program was established by theNational Science Foundation in 1999 with the goals of developing the technical communicationand teaching skills of STEM graduate students, fostering STEM content gain and professionaldevelopment among K-12 teachers, and enriching K-12 students’ learning of STEM conceptsand applications. A number of studies have been conducted that indicate that a GK-12 site canaccomplish the NSF program goals. However, less is known about the effects of the program onthe career development of Fellows after they have graduated.This paper presents a study on the long-term impact of participating in a GK-12 program on theGK-12 Fellows. This paper is based on work at a GK-12 site that received continuous fundingfrom the NSF, the State, and the institution from 2000 to 2010. At this site, engineering andscience graduate students worked 1 or 2 days each week in an elementary or middle schoolclassroom, with a classroom teacher, developing and implementing inquiry-based activities forthe students. In 2011, 93 former Fellows were contacted and asked to take an online surveyabout their program experience, and how it affected their career path after graduation. Sixtysurveys were returned, with 52 being complete enough for analysis. As a result, over 50% of thepopulation is reflected in the reported findings, with representation from cohorts from the year2000 to the year 2010.The majority of survey respondents indicated that they felt the GK-12 experience had a large orvery large impact on their career path. The level of impact depended on their career path,however; Fellows in a position related to education (at either the university or K-12 level)indicated a higher impact than those in other sectors. Of interest was participants’ feedback onthe program’s impact on specific career-related skills. The time spent actively teaching inclassrooms led to large impacts on teaching, communication, and presentation skills. In addition,other skills such as leadership, teamwork, and time management were also reported to have beenimproved. Participants also noted a positive impact on research, writing, and critical thinkingskills.When asked about individual components of the program experience compared to standardgraduate school activities, participants ranked teaching K-12 students – the primary activity inthe GK-12 program – to be equally helpful as their thesis/dissertation and graduate coursework.The results indicated that the GK-12 program had important long-term positive influences onFellows’ careers and job-related skills. This research can provide a useful background for futureprograms, giving evidence of the benefits for Fellows and outlining the successful (and also lesseffective) components of our program.

Lyons, J. S., & Pfister-Altschul, E. (2013, June), A Survey of Former GK-12 Fellows Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19131

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