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Grade 3-8 Teachers’ Initial Ideas about 21st Century Skills in the Context of a Science and Engineering Professional Development Program

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Research and Models for Professional Development

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.755.1 - 22.755.19



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Paper Authors


Augusto Z. Macalalag Jr. Stevens Institute of Technology

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Augusto Z. Macalalag, Jr. is an Assistant Director of STEM Education Research at Stevens Institute of Technology's Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education. He is responsible for conducting teacher workshops, program development, research, and publications as part of the National Science Foundation's Mathematics and Science Partnerships Program. His research interests include improving K-12 science and engineering education through teacher pre-service and in-service programs.

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Chris Jurado Stevens Institute of Technology

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Chris Jurado is involved in the development of research activities such as collection and analysis of data and publications as part of the National Science Foundation's Science Partnerships Program as well as in the implementation of capstone projects at the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE).
Prior to joining CIESE he was a practicing chemical engineer on water treatments, environmental management systems and quality assurance.
Chris received a B.E. in in Chemical Engineering from University of Guayaquil, an Environmental Technology Certificate from the Swedish International Development Agency, and a M.E. in Engineering Management from Stevens Institute of Technology. He's currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Financial Engineering at Stevens.

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Grade 3-8 Teachers’ Initial Ideas of 21st Century Skills in the Context of Science and Engineering Professional Development ProgramIn today’s changing economy and global workforce, several published policy documentsadvocate an increase in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in K-12 education1.In the U.S., employers demand skill sets from recently hired workers such as the ability toeffectively communicate, collaborate, problem solve, and think critically. However, these work-related skills were found to be lacking in most high school and even college graduates2. Little isknown regarding effective teacher professional development models of how to cultivate 21stcentury skills in K-12 science and engineering content and classroom activities3. Specifically, itis not clear what teachers know about these skills or if they know how to implement themparticularly in elementary classrooms4.Science and engineering education are seen as promising vehicles to promote 21st century skillsin the classroom because they are not only a body of accepted knowledge, but they also involveprocesses that lead to knowledge4,5. For instance, in the engineering design process (EDP),students are able to ask questions, propose possible solutions, construct and test prototypes, andpresent final products that promote creativity, innovation, critical thinking, problem solving,communication, and collaboration6.To address these challenges, 48 Grade 3-8 science teachers from seven school districtsthroughout (State) are taking part in a professional development program that uses scienceinquiry and engineering design process (EDP) to foster specific 21st century skills in theirclassrooms. Teachers are currently participating in 15-credit hours of graduate content courses inphysical and earth sciences, four professional development workshops, and monthly classroomsupport visits in 2010-2012 school years. The goals (of the Project) are: (1) to increase teachers’content knowledge in physical and earth sciences, (2) to improve participating teachers’preparedness in creating, adapting, and delivering inquiry-based science and engineering lessons,and (3) to enhance teachers’ ability to design learning environments that foster students’ 21stcentury skills. We anticipate that by increasing teachers’ content knowledge and pedagogicalcontent knowledge in science and engineering and by supporting teachers’ implementation ofscience inquiry and EDP in their classrooms, we can improve students’ creativity, innovation,critical thinking, problem solving, ability to communicate and collaborate, and media andinformation literacy, which are essential 21st century skills7. In this paper, we will report on theteachers’ initial conceptions and implementation of 21st century skills in their science classroomsbased on semi-structured interviews and teaching philosophy papers that were conducted andcollected during the first month of the program.Preliminary analysis of interviews showed that 20 teachers identified critical thinking andproblem solving as important skills for their students to learn. Teachers defined critical thinkingand problem solving as a student’s ability to apply prior knowledge, generate ideas orhypothesis, conduct and analyze experiments, and synthesize information based on experimentaldata or information provided. The majority of teachers also mentioned oral, writing, andmathematical skills (24 teachers); information technology literacy (29 teachers); and reading andlistening skills (17 teachers). However, very few teachers mentioned creativity and collaboration,while no one mentioned iterative problem solving and innovation, which are essential skills inthe 21st century2,7 and (as skills) associated in the EDP5. We will discuss our qualitative analysisprocedures and provide definitions and examples in our paper. Moreover, we will report ourfindings from the analysis of teaching philosophy papers, which can further shed insight on theteachers’ initial notions of 21st century skills and their implementation in the classroom.References                                                            1 Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century. (2007). Rising Above the Gathering Storm:Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. 2 Casner-Lotto & Barrington. (2006). Are they really ready to work? Employers’ perspectives on the basicknowledge and applied skills of new entrants to the 21st century U.S. workforce. The Conference Board, CorporateVoices for Working Families, Partnership for 21st Century Skills, and Society for Human Resource Management.Available at [Retrieved on July 16, 2010]3 Bybee, R.W. & Fuchs, B. (2006). Preparing the 21st Century Workforce: A New Reform in Science andTechnology Education (Editorial). Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 43(4), 349-352.  4 National Research Council. (2010). Exploring the Intersection of Science Education and 21st Century Skills.Washington, DC:The National Academies.5 Committee on K-12 Engineering Education. (2009). Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding theStatus and Improving the Prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies.6 Macalalag, A.Z., Lowes, S., Tirthali, D., McKay., M., & McGrath, E. (2010). Teacher Professional Developmentin Grades 3-5: Fostering Teachers’ and Students’ Content Knowledge in Science and Engineering. Paper Presentedat the Annual Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education, Louisville, KY, June 2010.7 Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2009). Science and 21st Century Skills. Available at [Retrieved on August 9, 2010]. 

Macalalag, A. Z., & Jurado, C. (2011, June), Grade 3-8 Teachers’ Initial Ideas about 21st Century Skills in the Context of a Science and Engineering Professional Development Program Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18036

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