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A Systemic Solution: Elementary Teacher Preparation In Stem Expertise And Engineering Awareness

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K-12 Teachers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.126.1 - 14.126.17



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Paper Authors


Louis Nadelson College of Education

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Louis S. Nadelson is an Assistant Professor in the College of Education at Boise State University. His research agenda is motive by science education and includes aspects of conceptual change, inquiry, and pre-service and in-service teacher education. He has investigated learning for conceptual change and the impact of inquiry on modifying misconceptions. Dr. Nadelson earned a B.S. degree in Biological Science from Colorado State University, a B.A. with concentrations in computing, mathematics and physics from The Evergreen State University, a Secondary Teaching Certificate from University of Puget Sound, an M.S. Ed. in Educational Administration from Western Washington University and a Ph.D. (research-based, not theoretical) in Educational Psychology from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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Janet Callahan Boise State University Orcid 16x16

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Janet M. Callahan is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Engineering at Boise State University and a Professor in the Materials Science and Engineering Department. Dr. Callahan received her Ph.D. in Materials Science, her M.S. in Metallurgy and her B.S. in Chemical Engineering from the University of Connecticut. Her educational research interests include freshmen engineering programs, math success, K-12 STEM curriculum, and recruitment and retention issues in engineering.

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Pat Pyke Boise State University

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Patricia A. Pyke is the Director of Education Research for the College of Engineering at Boise State University. She oversees research projects in freshman programs, math support, mentoring, K-12 STEM, and women’s programs. She earned a B.S.E. degree in Mechanical Engineering from Duke University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Anne Hay Boise State University

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Anne Hay is the Coordinator of the Idaho SySTEMic Solution, a K-12 research project at Boise State University funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Ms. Hay has more than 25 years of teaching experience in K-12 through college programs, teaching German, English as a foreign language, biology, general science, life science, ecology and music. She received a B.A. and an MS in biology from Stanford University and a Teaching Credential from the University of California, Berkeley.

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Cheryl Schrader Boise State University

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Cheryl B. Schrader is Dean of the College of Engineering and Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Boise State University. Dean Schrader has an extensive record of publications and sponsored research in the systems, control and engineering education fields. Recent recognition related to this work includes the 2005 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Mathematics Mentoring from the White House and the 2008 IEEE Education Society Hewlett-Packard/Harriett B. Rigas Award. Dean Schrader received her B.S. in Electrical Engineering from Valparaiso University, and her M.S. in Electrical Engineering and Ph.D. in Systems and Control, both from University of Notre Dame.

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A SySTEMic Solution: Elementary Teacher Preparation in STEM Expertise and Engineering Awareness Abstract

Research shows that most K-5 teachers are typically required to complete only minimal coursework in science and mathematics, which constrains their knowledge, efficacy, and confidence for teaching STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) content. Additionally, elementary teachers, like much of the general public, have limited comprehension about the relationship between STEM concepts and engineering fields and the kind of work and societal contributions made by engineers. Yet, elementary school is a critical time in which students develop foundational understanding of STEM concepts, career options, and inquiry learning.

To address students’ STEM needs and limited teacher preparation, the Idaho SySTEMic Solution research project was implemented by the College of Education and College of Engineering at Boise State University, in partnership with the Meridian Joint School District and educational products and services company PCS Edventures! Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Idaho SySTEMic Solution is a STEM education initiative designed to advance achievement and confidence among elementary-age learners and their teachers. Phase I of the Idaho SySTEMic Solution, which is the subject of this report, focuses on teachers, with the goal of increasing their STEM content knowledge, instructional practices, awareness of engineering, and overall confidence for teaching STEM concepts. Phase I began with a three-day summer institute for 39 elementary teachers at seven schools representing socioeconomic diversity in the largest school district in Idaho.

To measure the results of the workshop, several data collection methods were utilized, for pre- and post-intervention assessment. Repeated measures analyses revealed significant teacher increase in confidence to teach STEM curriculum (p < .01), positive increase in engineering attitudes (p < .01) and increase in STEM teaching efficacy (p < .01) over the course of the three- day workshop. We attribute these changes to the content and context of the workshop instruction.


Can three days of activities have a profound impact on how we perform in our professional capacity? It is a common expectation that K-12 teachers will engage in relatively brief professional development courses or workshops with the anticipation that the exposure to activities and content will improve their capacity to teach. Is this a realistic expectation? As most have experienced and would contend, learning takes time.1 This is particularly true when learning content that is unrelated to prior knowledge.1, 2 Maintaining this perspective would suggest that brief interventions are unlikely to achieve the desired goals of increased knowledge, comprehension, and retention of new or ambiguous content. However, research also shows that engaging in tasks that are relevant, novel, and applicable increase learner motivation which can

Nadelson, L., & Callahan, J., & Pyke, P., & Hay, A., & Schrader, C. (2009, June), A Systemic Solution: Elementary Teacher Preparation In Stem Expertise And Engineering Awareness Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5080

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: © 2009 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