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Engineering an Evaluation for a Growing Rocket Program: Lessons Learned

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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

STEM Education Tied to Aerospace Engineering

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Hansel Burley Texas Tech University

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Dr. Burley is a professor of educational psychology. His research focus includes college access, diversity, and resilience in youth. Recently he has served as the evaluator for multiple STEM projects.

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Terrance Denard Youngblood Texas Tech University

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Terrance D. Youngblood is a doctoral student in Educational Psychology at Texas Tech University, specializing in the effective evaluation and assessment of educational outreach programs and workforce development.

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Ibrahim H. Yeter Texas Tech University Orcid 16x16

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Ibrahim H. Yeter is currently a PhD candidate in the Curriculum and Instruction program at the College of Education, and at the same time, he is pursuing his Master's degree in Petroleum Engineering at Texas Tech University. He is highly interested in conducting research within the Engineering Education framework. Mr. Yeter plans to graduate in December 2016 with both degrees and is looking forward to securing a teaching position within a research university and continuing his in-depth research on Engineering Education.

He is one of two scholarships awarded by NARST (National Association for Research in Science Teaching) to attend the ESERA (European Science Education Research Association) summer research conference in České Budějovice, Czech Republic in August 2016. In addition, he has been named as one of 14 Jhumki Basu Scholars by the NARST’s Equity and Ethics Committee in 2014. He is the first and only individual from his native country and Texas Tech University to have received this prestigious award. Furthermore, he was a recipient of the Texas Tech University President’s Excellence in Diversity & Equity award in 2014 and was the only graduate student to have received the award, which was granted based on outstanding activities and projects that contribute to a better understanding of equity and diversity issues within Engineering Education.

Additional projects involvement include: Engineering is Elementary (EiE) Project; Computational Thinking/Pedagogy Project; Rocket Project of SystemsGo; World MOON Project; East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood (ELPN) Project; and Robotics. Since 2013 he has served as the president of the Nu Sigma chapter of Kappa Delta Pi: International Honor Society in Education and was the founding president of ASEE Student Chapter at Texas Tech University. He can be reached at

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Casey Michael Williams Texas Tech University

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I am currently a second year PhD student in educational psychology. I spent 2 years teaching environmental science, chemistry and biology to high school students in Kansas City through Teach For America. My interests lie with designing educational initiatives that highlight the importance of STEM education for the future of learning and motivation.

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Perennially, educators, industrialists, social commentators, and politicians call for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) instruction that matches an increasingly multifaceted global economy. In the U.S., this new economy presents a growing demand for STEM talent. However, current test-driven curricula and instructional practices in American schools cannot meet the challenge. The latest results from the Trends International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) show American students lagging behind other industrialized nations. Additionally, rationales for new approaches can be found in Rising above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future. Interestingly, for the past decade, one high school STEM education program has maintained a commitment to addressing these concerns. This effort has students’ conceiving, building, and launching rockets in an inquiry-, discovery-, and problem-based classroom. This rocket program aims at increasing student interest in STEM by having students use their own efforts to make rockets fly. Students get nine months of hands-on engagement that includes learning from direct and scholarly research, theory development, design brief creation, and post mission analyses. The curriculum also emphasizes soft-skills, like teamwork, communication, and leadership. Teachers work as roving facilitators whose goal is to help students “to see beyond the fire and smoke” and use data to direct effort. These teachers represent about 50 high schools in this Southern state. They are taught to use Socratic teaching methods, with a focus on formulating good questions that lead students to discovery across a range of topics that include those from aeronautics, electrical engineering, and fluid dynamics to those in algebra and calculus. How does one evaluate such a program? This paper describes the evolution of an evaluation strategy for this divergent approach to STEM education. The evaluation strategy included four parts. The first was an exploratory evaluation. This effort was based on past data and interviews with stakeholders. It resulted in a good baseline picture of where the program was in 2014. Second, the evaluators created an implementation plan. Aligned with the exploratory evolution, the implementation plan presented a program logic model, solidified program stakeholder and evaluation team roles, provided preliminary questionnaire maps, and defined evaluation products. It also laid out an agreed upon timeline for deliverables. Third, the strategy included an annual evaluation of student and teacher opinions of their experiences. Finally, the strategy sketched the future architecture for an ongoing, real time assessment system using a custom-designed social networking service. This paper will share the lessons learned that apply to evaluating STEM pedagogy and STEM programs that use nontraditional approaches and assessments.

Burley, H., & Youngblood, T. D., & Yeter, I. H., & Williams, C. M. (2016, June), Engineering an Evaluation for a Growing Rocket Program: Lessons Learned Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26616

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