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Developing Lifelong Learning Skills For Middle School Teachers: Devising Their Own Engineering And Science Hands On Activities

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K12 Teachers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.397.1 - 13.397.16



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Paper Authors


Shannon Davis University of Arkansas

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Dr. Shannon Davis is the Assistant Dean for Research in the College of Engineering. She has conducted research in the area of education policy, school-based interventions, minority political attitudes in the area of education, organizational behavior and political psychology. She has taught courses in these areas and has been at the University of Arkansas for ten years.

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Bryan Hill University of Arkansas

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Bryan Hill is the Associate Director of Recruitment, Retention and Diversity for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas. He manages the college-wide recruitment operation and directs the engineering summer programs.

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Carol Gattis University of Arkansas

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Dr. Carol Gattis is an Associate Professor of Industrial Engineering and Director of Recruitment, Retention, Honors and Diversity for the College of Engineering at the University of Arkansas. In this latter role, she directs and develops new programs for the college-wide efforts in recruitment, retention and diversity.

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Bradley Dearing Illinois State University

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Dr. Brad Dearing is a faculty associate at Illinois State University and teaches Engineering and Technology at the University’s laboratory high school, and has a B.S. and M.S. from Illinois State. He has served as President for the Technology Education Association of Illinois and served on the board of directors for the past 12 years. He is active in professional research and publications as well as continuing work towards professional development, state and national standards and curriculum projects.

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Edgar Clausen University of Arkansas

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Dr. Edgar C. Clausen currently serves as Professor and the Ray C. Adam Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering at the University of Arkansas. His research interests include bioprocess engineering (fermentations, kinetics, reactor design, bioseparations, process scale-up and design), gas phase fermentations, and the production of energy and chemicals from biomass and waste. Dr. Clausen is a registered professional engineer in the state of Arkansas.

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

Developing Lifelong Learning Skills for Middle School Teachers: Devising Their Own Engineering and Science Hands-on Activities Introduction

Universities and organizations often provide K-12 teachers with sets of science and engineering experiments for their classes, but this is not enough - teachers need to learn how to devise their own hands-on activities, based on the needs of their curriculum and their students. Through use of the “Design Loop,” middle school teachers are taught how to design their own active learning engineering and science activities at a two-week Summer Institute at the University of Arkansas’ College of Engineering. This paper details techniques used in year 2 of the Summer Institute and the program evaluation survey results.

At the Summer Institute, teachers were first introduced to the “Design Loop,” and the similarities and differences of problem solving in science, engineering and engineering technology. They were then given several hands-on open-ended problems to solve in small teams. Early in the workshop, teachers typically solved the problems using a trial-and-error approach. However, as the workshop progressed, the teachers more readily adopted an engineering approach to solving problems. Finally, the teachers were asked to design and prepare their own open-ended exercises for use in their classrooms. By the end of the workshop, the teachers had developed and tested 20 of their own open-ended experiments, critiqued and improved the designs of others and had learned the skills to develop an unlimited number of their own hands-on engineering and science activities. This work is funded by the Arkansas Department of Education through the U.S. Department of Education’s Math-Science Partnership Program.


The National Science Foundation recognized the need to introduce a larger and more diverse student population to engineering and science in middle school or earlier to increase the number of students entering the engineering disciplines.6 Most students in the middle level grades (6th, 7th, and 8th) are unaware of engineering and are not socialized to recognize engineering as a good and rewarding career option. Typically, these teachers and students are not exposed early or often enough to employing critical thinking and science for solving engineering problems in the real world.

Many K-12 teacher development initiatives involve providing teachers with activity sets that they can repeat in their classrooms. This technique has been met with limited success, resulting in teachers actually utilizing few of the activities. Teachers are often uncomfortable with experiments and activity principles they may not fully understand.13, 14 With the No Child Left Behind legislation, teachers may be unclear how an activity fits within the legislation frameworks and guidelines, so they do not include such activities in their lesson plans.

With the “Design Loop” method described in this paper, teachers learn how to devise their own fun and creative hands-on engineering activities, based on the needs of their curriculum and students – activities of which they feel “ownership” and will truly use in their classrooms. To

Davis, S., & Hill, B., & Gattis, C., & Dearing, B., & Clausen, E. (2008, June), Developing Lifelong Learning Skills For Middle School Teachers: Devising Their Own Engineering And Science Hands On Activities Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3452

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: © 2008 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