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Analyzing Successful Teaching Practices in Middle School Science and Math Classrooms when using Robotics (Fundamental)

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

June 19, 2019

Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development using Robotics Activities

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Veena Jayasree Krishnan NYU Tandon School of Engineering

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Veena Jayasree Krishnan received a Master of Technology (M. Tech.) degree in Mechatronics from Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore, India in 2012. She has two years of research experience at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. She is currently pursuing Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering. She is serving as a research assistant under an NSF-funded DR K-12 research project to promote integration of robotics in middle school science and math education. For her doctoral research, she conducts mechatronics and robotics research in the Mechatronics, Controls, and Robotics Laboratory at NYU.

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Sheila Borges Rajguru NYU Tandon School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Sheila Borges Rajguru is the Assistant Director of the Center for K-12 STEM Education, NYU Tandon School of Engineering. As the Center's STEAM educator and researcher she works with engineers and faculty to provide professional development to K-12 STEM teachers with a focus on social justice. She is currently Co-Principal Investigator on two NSF-grants that provide robotics/mechatronics PD to science, math, and technology teachers. In addition, she is the projects director of the ARISE program. This full-time, seven-week program includes: college level workshops and seminars, and a high level research experience in NYU faculty labs. Her commitment to diversity and equity is paramount to her work in STEAM and activism. As a former Adjunct Professor at Teachers College, Columbia University and biomedical scientist in immunology Dr. Borges balances the world of what scientists do and brings that to STEAM education in order to provide culturally relevant professional development and curricula that aligns to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Her free time is spent hiking, growing spiritually, and enjoying her family and friends. Moreover, Dr. Borges is treasurer and co-chair of the Northeastern Association for Science Teacher Education (NE-ASTE) where faculty, researchers, and educators inform STEM teaching and learning and inform policy.

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Vikram Kapila NYU Tandon School of Engineering Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), where he directs a Mechatronics, Controls, and Robotics Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a DR K-12 research project, and an ITEST research project, all funded by NSF. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, OH. His research interests include K-12 STEM education, mechatronics, robotics, and control system technology. Under a Research Experience for Teachers Site, a DR K-12 project, and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by NSF, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), funded by six philanthropic foundations, he has conducted significant K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach activities to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of dozens of New York City public schools. He received NYU Tandon’s 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award, 2002 Jacobs Innovation Grant, 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award, and 2012 Inaugural Distinguished Award for Excellence in the category Inspiration through Leadership. Moreover, he is a recipient of 2014-2015 University Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 9 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 62 journal articles, and 154 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 35 M.S., and 5 Ph.D. thesis students; 58 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 500 K-12 teachers and 118 high school student researchers; and 18 undergraduate GK-12 Fellows and 59 graduate GK-12 Fellows. Moreover, he directs K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach programs that enrich the STEM education of over 1,000 students annually.

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A robotics-based curriculum offers numerous opportunities to enrich science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education for students and enables teachers to integrate engineering and computing techniques into educational programs. Prior studies have indicated significant role of robots in supporting myriad educational activities in classrooms, e.g., engaging participants in active learning, embedding kinesthetic experiences in learning, imparting intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to learners, and producing student satisfaction are all essential outcomes of robotic-focused educational framework. This paper analyzes teaching practices that successfully integrate robotics in middle school science and math classrooms. Effective classroom practices encourage interaction between educators and learners, provide opportunities for active participation of learners, impart motivation to them, and offer timely feedback. Moreover, teachers should know students’ misconceptions of content knowledge and address them.

In summer 2017, we conducted a three-week professional development (PD) program for 20+ middle school math and science teachers to teach STEM with robotics. During PD, participants learned and practiced developing robotics-based lessons with LEGO robots as a pedagogical tool. Afterwards, during the academic year, PD facilitators visited schools to observe teachers implement the robot-based lessons. To examine the effectiveness of using robotics for teaching and to uncover successful classroom practices, teachers were surveyed about their experiences in robotic and non-robotic classes. The survey questionnaire investigated students’ misconceptions in both robotic and non-robotic classes. Teacher practices in robotic and non-robotic classes were examined. The study was conducted in two seventh grade math and two seventh grade science classes.

Results of a pre-/post-test show that when comparing robotic versus non-robotic science lessons, 63% of students who performed robotic-based activities showed improvement versus 38% in the non-robotic class. For the math lessons, 30% of students in the robotic classes showed improvement compared to 56% in the non-robotic class. However, no students showed any decline on post-test in the robotic-based math class. Survey results showed that 83% of teachers agreed that robotics supported students’ understanding of science and math concepts and improved student engagement in classrooms by incorporating kinesthetic and visual learning opportunities. Moreover, results show that all teachers using any form of formative assessment methods (e.g., entrance ticket to test students’ prior knowledge, exit tickets, online assessments, students group observations, and providing checklist during activities for self-assessment) improved their knowledge of student misconceptions prior to implementing the robotics lesson.

Both the robotic and non-robotic classes may require the same STEM principles, but successful classroom practices require teachers’ understanding of students’ misconceptions and effectively addressing those using robotics. Results show that abstract science lessons are better suited for robotic-based activity because robots provide a visual representation. Without robots, abstract lessons remain abstract to students. Results show that for successful classroom practices using robotics, teachers need to identify the best set of: lesson for robotic activity, evaluation strategy for determining student engagement and progress, and students’ prior content knowledge and misconceptions. Complete description of the survey questionnaire, full qualitative analysis of survey and pre/post-test, and their results will be presented in the final paper.

Jayasree Krishnan, V., & Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2019, June), Analyzing Successful Teaching Practices in Middle School Science and Math Classrooms when using Robotics (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32092

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