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Elementary Teachers’ Two-Year Implementation of Engineering: A Case of Success

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

K-5 Teacher Transformation

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.474.1 - 23.474.26



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Paper Authors


K. Anna Douglas Purdue University Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Douglas is a Post-Doctoral Research Associate at Purdue University's Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning.

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Daphne Duncan Wiles Purdue University, West Lafayette


So Yoon Yoon INSPIRE, School of Engineering Education, Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Dr. So Yoon Yoon, is an INSPIRE post-doctoral associate at Purdue University. She received her Ph.D. and Educational Psychology with the specialties in Gifted Education and Research Methods & Measurement, respectively, from Purdue University. She also holds a M.S. in Astronomy & Astrophysics and a B.S. in Astronomy and Meteorology from Kyungpook National University in South Korea. Her work centers on the development and validation of instruments, particularly useful for P-16 STEM education settings (e.g., the Revised PSVT:R and the TESS), the evaluation of engineering teacher professional development programs, and the investigation of P-16 students’ spatial ability to understand its association with their academic performance and talents in STEM fields.

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Heidi A. Diefes-Dux is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She received her B.S. and M.S. in Food Science from Cornell University and her Ph.D. in Food Process Engineering from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue University. She is a member of Purdue’s Teaching Academy. Since 1999, she has been a faculty member within the First-Year Engineering Program at Purdue, the gateway for all first-year students entering the College of Engineering. She has coordinated and taught in a required first-year engineering course that engages students in open-ended problem solving and design. Her research focuses on the development, implementation, and assessment of model-eliciting activities with realistic engineering contexts. She is currently the Director of Teacher Professional Development for the Institute for P-12 Engineering Research and Learning (INSPIRE).

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1 Elementary Teachers’ Two-Year Implementation of Engineering: A Case of Success (Research to Practice)Previous studies have indicated that prior to participating in one week of teacher professionaldevelopment (TPD) focused on engineering, elementary teachers’ understanding of engineeringand what engineers do is at best, limited (author et al., 2007; author, et al., 2011). However, inboth of these studies, teachers experienced significant improvement in their level ofunderstanding what engineering is and what engineers do after participating in engineering-focused TPD.An engineering institute in the Midwest has provided a total of twelve week-long engineeringTPD academies for elementary school teachers over the course of six years. Since 2006, theinstitute’s experience has been that some schools seem to embrace fully the integration ofengineering into the elementary curriculum and over time, continue to express interest in furtherprofessional development focused on engineering. In contrast, other schools communicate aninability to continue with the integration of engineering, and no longer participate in engineering-focused TPD. Our research question is: What factors contribute to successful implementation ofengineering into the elementary classroom?For the current study, the TPD academies involved a minimal commitment of two years. Onefocus of the TPD was to help teachers learn to integrate the engineering design process intoexisting science and math curriculum. During the first summer, teachers attended the engineeringacademy for six days, and the following summer, the same teachers participated in a three-dayfollow-up engineering academy.To address the research question, we purposefully selected an elementary school whose teachersattended a week-long summer engineering TPD academy, successfully integrated engineeringinto their math and science curriculum, and returned the next summer for a follow-upengineering TPD. Their school continued to have enthusiastic teacher volunteers participate inTPD in subsequent years. This allowed for exploration of the factors that contributed tosuccessful integration and continued interest in engineering at the elementary level.After attending the first summer academy, the four teachers grew in understanding of designengineering technology, as measured by the Design, Engineering and Technology (DET) survey.The mean pretest score for the teachers was 11.21; the mean post-test score was 12.53. At theend of each academic year, teachers participated in two 30- 45 minute interviews about theirexperiences implementing engineering in class. Interviews were analyzed inductively to allowcategories to emerge from the data. Preliminary results from the first year found that teachers: (a)applied the engineering design process to other curricula, (b) had administrative support, (c) tookownership of engineering integration, (d) worked in teams with other teachers, and (e) werewilling to work past their insecurities regarding engineering. From the second year, teachers: (a)applied the engineering design process to other curricula, (b) collaborated with other teachers, (c)took ownership of the curriculum, (d) had enthusiastic administrative support, and (e)encouraged students to work in teams. Recommendations and implications will be discussed. 2ReferencesAuthor et al. (2011). Journal of Engineering EducationAuthor et al. (2007). Journal of Engineering Education

Douglas, K. A., & Wiles, D. D., & Yoon, S. Y., & Diefes-Dux, H. A. (2013, June), Elementary Teachers’ Two-Year Implementation of Engineering: A Case of Success Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--19488

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