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Changing High School Stem Teacher Beliefs And Expectations About Engineering Learning And Instruction

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

ERM Potpourri

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.274.1 - 15.274.15



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Paper Authors

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Mitchell Nathan University of Wisconsin, Madison


Amy Atwood University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Amy K. Atwood a Quantitative Methods graduate student in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research has primarily focused on the appropriate use of statistical methods, particularly those involving preliminary tests of significance.

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Amy Prevost University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Amy Prevost is a graduate student in Education Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research has focused on the STEM career pipeline, especially related to engineering and engineering education and biotechnology.

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Allen Phelps University of Wisconsin, Madison

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L. Allen Phelps is Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis, and Director of the Center on Education and Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over the past two decades, his research, teaching, and public service work has focused on the interaction between the education and economic sectors with particular attention to policy initiatives, equity issues, and professional development.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Changing High School STEM Teachers’ Beliefs and Expectations about Engineering Learning and Instruction


In response to increased interest in engineering education at the high school level and the availability of new funding for pre-college STEM programs, a growing number of high school teachers are participating in professional development activities in engineering. Education research has demonstrated that meaningful and sustainable change in instruction is based on knowledge of teachers’ judgments, beliefs and expectations about learning and instruction. Yet little is known about the “engineering teaching culture” and there are few methods in place to reliably measure teachers’ views or how those views are influenced by participation in professional development programs. This study documented teachers’ views and expectations regarding engineering learning and instruction, and measured the impact that professional development training for pre-college engineering had on these beliefs. We examined this in the context of a specific, well-regarded, pre-college engineering program, Project Lead the Way (PLTW). We measured teachers’ views before and after training and teaching their first PLTW course, as compared to changes observed with a control group of STEM teachers. Some pre- existing differences reached statistical significance: Prospective PLTW teachers were more likely than control teachers to identify sources of support for engineering in their schools, report that science and math concepts were integrated with engineering instruction; and to support greater access to engineering. Over time, teachers from both groups were significantly less inclined to use students’ interests and backgrounds to shape classroom instruction. The primary change attributable specifically to the intervention was the increased belief among newly minted PLTW teachers that they were providing engineering instruction that effectively integrated science and math concepts. While this is seen as desirable and in keeping with current education efforts, the final section examines some of the challenges of implementing effective STEM integration in high school classrooms.

The Importance of Studying Teacher Beliefs about Engineering Education

As U.S. high schools respond to calls for improving student learning in math, science and pre- college engineering 1 and the availability of increased funding opportunities such as Race to the Top,2 greater numbers of K-12 educators are participating in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professional development activities. Consequently there is a growing need to understand K-12 STEM teachers’ knowledge and beliefs, effectiveness and instructional decision making3. Education research shows that instructional practice and teacher decision making are influenced by teachers’ beliefs about learning and instruction4-8. Furthermore, the educational experience for students is dependent on the quality and effectiveness of teachers, more than perhaps any other single alterable factor9-11. For example, teachers’ views have serious implications for the perceived place and purpose of engineering in the K-12 curriculum, as noted in a recent report from the National Academy of Engineering12. Furthermore, as professional development programs in pre-college engineering proliferate, there

Nathan, M., & Atwood, A., & Prevost, A., & Phelps, A. (2010, June), Changing High School Stem Teacher Beliefs And Expectations About Engineering Learning And Instruction Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--16326

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: © 2010 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