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Classroom Learning And Instruction In High School Precollege Engineering Settings: A Video Based Analysis

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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

High-School Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.328.1 - 14.328.23



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Paper Authors

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Mitchell Nathan University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Kyle Oliver University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Amy Prevost University of Wisconsin, Madison

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Natalie Tran California State University, Bakersfield

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Allen Phelps University of Wisconsin, Madison

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

Classroom Learning and Instruction in High School Pre-College Engineering Settings: A Video-Based Analysis


We report on descriptive analyses of classroom observations of the instruction and classroom interactions that took place over four days of a high school pre-engineering class, Project Lead the Way, as participants engaged in project-based learning. Our objective was to study the enacted curriculum and determine how class time was apportioned, the extent to which time was distributed between developing technical skills and fostering conceptual understanding in engineering and mathematics, and the degree to which mathematics concepts were implicitly embedded within the engineering activities or made explicit for students, and therefore more supportive of transfer of learning.

Our coding of the video data support the following three main descriptive results: (1) more of the instructor’s time was spent on class management (non-instructional) tasks than on any other classroom activity, (2) a greater proportion of the total observed instruction time was devoted to skills rather than concepts, and (3) only a small fraction of instruction that linked math concepts to engineering coursework made those links explicit, while the large majority were implicitly embedded in the activities and the CAD software used in the class. Both positive and negative examples of explicit integration are provided to illustrate these events. We relate these results to prior research on the intended curriculum used to convey the idealized pre-engineering program, and discuss the implications these findings have for fostering deep learning of engineering concepts and supporting the transfer of knowledge to novel tasks and situations.


Engineering excellence in the US serves as one of the primary vehicles for technological innovation, economic prosperity, national security, and advancements in public health. However, current educational trends portend a decline in these areas as the mathematical and scientific preparation of American K-12 students slip in relation to other industrialized nations, and students opt out of engineering programs and careers1. Interest in science, mathematics, and technology is particularly low among disadvantaged groups that have been underrepresented in those fields2. To address both the preparedness for and the appeal of engineering, technical education programs have emerged that provide hands-on, project-based curricula that focus on the integration of mathematics and science knowledge with engineering activities.

The central objective of this paper is to explore the extent to which integration of mathematics ideas with engineering is evident during classroom learning and instruction. We present a descriptive study of classroom learning and instruction. Preliminary to the empirical findings, we review the basis for this integrative approach in educational policy, contemporary learning theory, and as it is intended within a widely adopted pre-engineering curriculum program, Project Lead the Way.

Nathan, M., & Oliver, K., & Prevost, A., & Tran, N., & Phelps, A. (2009, June), Classroom Learning And Instruction In High School Precollege Engineering Settings: A Video Based Analysis Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--5428

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