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Exposing Engineering Graduate Students To A Constructivist Approach To Teaching Elementary And Middle School Science

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Graduate Student Experiences

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.601.1 - 9.601.12

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Paper Authors

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Michael Watts

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Theodor Richardson

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

Session 3555

Exposing Engineering Graduate Students to a Constructivist Approach to Teaching Elementary and Middle School Science

Theodor D Richardson, Michael J Watts, Jed S Lyons, Christine Ebert

University of South Carolina


Training and competency are essential attributes of teachers at any societal level; however, most college professors are trained in a technical area instead of the art and science of teaching. Knowing a student's learning style, developmental level, strengths, and weaknesses will help to educate that student in a meaningful way; at the college level, these factors are historically overlooked. Using the microcosm of the engineering departments at the University of South Carolina's Columbia campus, this paper will explore the effects of an education course (EDTE 701 Special Topics in Teaching Science) that is part of an NSF Graduate Teaching Fellows in K- 12 Education program. This class is taken by engineering and computer science graduate students that are prospective faculty. It includes practicum teaching experiences in elementary and middle school grade classrooms. The course is compared to the college-wide teaching assistant training and any professional training received by the faculty. The recipients of the various training methods are self-assessed on the basis of competency questions regarding their understanding of their students and teaching itself as opposed to the discipline being taught. This paper will compare these results and will discuss the applicability of teacher training aimed at teaching the elementary grade levels to teaching courses at the higher university level.

1. Introduction

The National Science Foundation (NSF) provides fellowship support to select engineering graduate students at the University of South Carolina (USC) through an award designed to enable these students to serve as resources in South Carolina public K-12 schools. Among the intended goals of the GK-12 fellowship program, such as providing K-12 educators and students with methods for introducing technology and elements of engineering design into their science curriculum, is to provide classroom teaching experience, with an emphasis on learner-centered teaching methods, to future engineering educators.

Those engineering graduate students interested in an academic career have limited options when it comes to preparing to teach the next generation of engineers. These options can include teaching assistantships (TAs) which can be accompanied with a teaching workshop, teaching seminars, and under rare circumstances a graduate course on engineering education that can incorporates lesson-planning and learning theory1. The GK-12 fellowship program provides USC’s engineering graduate students experience with developing and implementing lesson plans

Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition, Copyright ©2004, American Society for Engineering Education

Watts, M., & Richardson, T. (2004, June), Exposing Engineering Graduate Students To A Constructivist Approach To Teaching Elementary And Middle School Science Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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: © 2004 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