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Educators in Industry: Using Teacher Externships as a Professional Development Models in STEM Education

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division Poster Session: Works in Progress

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Bradley Bowen North Dakota State University Orcid 16x16

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Bradley Bowen is an assistant professor at North Dakota State University. He has a duel appointment with the School of Education and the Department of Construction Management and Engineering. He has a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech and received a Master's of Civil Engineering and an Ed.D. in Technology Education from N.C. State University. He specializes in professional development in STEM and engineering education for K-12 educators.

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Preparing students for the future workforce is a tremendous responsibility being placed upon the classroom teacher. This requires exposing students to the skills expected from industry as a member of a global community. However, this can be challenging for teachers who receive licensure through a traditional teacher preparation program, because they typically have not been exposed to the skills used in the corporate world. And although they may be excellent teachers, the ability to connect classroom content to real-world context does not usually come from these teachers’ personal experiences. As the importance of STEM education becomes a topic of national importance, teachers need to increase the use of authentic learning experiences for students in the classroom. This is accomplished by giving teachers the tools and resources to continuously develop their own skills and knowledge in STEM methods, teaching techniques, and relevant use of problem solving processes. Therefore, teachers need to have experience with and an understanding of how 21st century skills and the engineering design process are being utilized in the corporate workforce to solve technological challenges. By using teacher externships as a professional development model, teachers gain first-hand knowledge of how companies are using the engineering design process and 21st century skills to be competitive in the workforce. The externship, along with targeted professional development, creates opportunities for improved teaching practices through increased frequency of STEM teaching techniques in the classroom.

Coordinated through North Dakota State University, the Educators in Industry: K-12 Externship Program places K-12 in-service educators in an industry-based work experience during the summer months, providing first-hand account of how corporations use the engineering design process. This gives educators the opportunity to learn authentic applications of STEM techniques that is not learned through traditional teacher preparation programs or typical professional development activities. It also creates a deeper appreciation for the need to include more problem-solving processes in the classroom. The teachers can then use this knowledge in the classroom to create lessons with more relevance and engagement for their students through real-world applications. Research shows that externship programs change teachers' classroom practices to increase the frequency is STEM teaching techniques. Evidence also exists that these types of programs increase an educator’s knowledge about problem solving processes as well as changing their classroom practices to demonstrate the practical application of these processes.

Since 2011, 30 educators have participated in the Educators in Industry program. During this time, preliminary research has been conducted to determine the impact the externship activities have on an educator’s classroom practices. The research described in this study uses both quantitative and qualitative data to analyze the shift in pedagogical practices of the participating educators. The results of the statistical analysis show significant changes in teaching practices after participation in the externship program. This paper will describe the details of the externship program, the research project, and the research findings.

Bowen, B. (2016, June), Educators in Industry: Using Teacher Externships as a Professional Development Models in STEM Education Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26893

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