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Design of Design: Empowering K-12 Educators to Develop Unique Standards-aligned Engineering Design Exercises in Their Own Classrooms

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

NGSS & Engineering Education

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Amy Trauth University of Delaware Orcid 16x16

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Amy Trauth, Ph.D., is the Senior Associate Director of Science Education at the University of Delaware's Professional Development Center for Educators. In her role, Amy works collaboratively with K-12 science and engineering teachers to develop and implement standards-based curricula and assessments. She also provides mentoring and coaching and co-teaching support to K-12 teachers across the entire trajectory of the profession. Her research focuses on teacher education, classroom assessment, and P-16 environmental and engineering education.

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Jenni Buckley University of Delaware

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Dr. Buckley is an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at University of Delaware. She received her Bachelor’s of Engineering (2001) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Delaware, and her MS (2004) and PhD (2006) in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley, where she worked on computational and experimental methods in spinal biomechanics. Since 2006, her research efforts have focused on the development and mechanical evaluation of medical and rehabilitation devices, particularly orthopaedic, neurosurgical, and pediatric devices. She teaches courses in design, biomechanics, and mechanics at University of Delaware and is heavily involved in K12 engineering education efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

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Debra J. Coffey University of Delaware

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With the publication of the Framework for K-12 Science Education (National Research Council, 2012) and adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), emphasis is now placed on the integration of engineering principles and practices into formal science education. Engineering design allows teachers to effectively blend disciplines and integrate math and science as a means of building student understanding of and skills for engaging in both content areas and appreciation for both content areas (Lehman & Capobianco, 2012). Integration of engineering design into school curricula, however, requires teachers to have content knowledge, pedagogical skills, and resources necessary to promote student learning in math and science through design (Lehman & Capobianco, 2012). Content-focused PD has been found key to improving teacher knowledge of STEM (Wilson, 2013).

Pre-college engineering education providers, such as Project Lead The Way (PLTW) and Engineering Is Elementary (EiE), offer comprehensive curricula and professional development opportunities in engineering education. These programs are high quality and provide an entry point into engineering education for K12 teachers; however, the engineering design exercises are prescriptive and vary in the degree to which they explicitly address the science standards inherent to the design problem. In addition, most K12 educators often struggle to adapt or to create from scratch design experiences for their classrooms. Therefore, there is a need for professional development that provides K12 educators with grade-band appropriate content knowledge in engineering design and makes explicit the process creating or adapting classroom-based engineering design experiences.

This study data presents a from a three-year effort to develop and implement a weeklong professional development institutes for K12 teachers focused on engineering design. The effort, funded through a state grant, was executed as a partnership between the colleges of education and engineering at a mid-sized state university. In Year 1 (Summer 2015), course learning objectives were finalized as: (1) developing a working knowledge of the engineering design process (EDP); (2) differentiating between engineering design and “making”; (3) understand how the EDP aligns with NGSS; (4) apply different modeling and prototyping techniques; (5) independently creating engineering problem statements applicable to particular grades in K-12; and (6) developing pedagogical techniques for successfully implementing classroom-based design challenges. Year 2 (Summer 2016) included refinement of teacher deliverables to include: (1) self-generated database of engineering design lesson plans, stratified by grade band and NAE Engineering Grand Challenge areas; (2) functional first-generation prototype from established design challenges; (3) lesson scaffolding and exemplar student work for design challenges; and (4) participation in peer-evaluated design critiques.

Summative program evaluation was performed in Year 3 with only minor changes in the course content from prior years. A total of 36 teachers participated in the five-day workshop and were clustered in working groups by grade band (K-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12). Summative evaluation included pre- and post-workshop surveys, observation and interviews, and in-classroom follow up during in Fall 2017. Short-term outcome measures include pre-post changes in teacher self-efficacy related to core content, hands-on prototyping, and the engineering design process. Longer term measures include teachers’ implementation of a novel or adapted engineering design lessons in their classrooms and evaluation of the alignment and quality of these exercises through student deliverables. Short-term measures showed gains in most measures of self-efficacy; in-classroom follow-up is presently underway and will be presented in this study.

Adoption of NGSS presents an opportunity for the engineering profession to expand and diversify its talent pipeline; however, this opportunity will only be realized if K12 teachers are well-prepared to deliver high quality, grade-band appropriate engineering experiences in their own classrooms. The professional development curriculum created in this study may be used as a model to empower teachers to develop and adapt NGSS-aligned curriculum.

Trauth, A., & Buckley, J., & Coffey, D. J. (2018, June), Design of Design: Empowering K-12 Educators to Develop Unique Standards-aligned Engineering Design Exercises in Their Own Classrooms Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--30269

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: © 2018 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