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Impact of Attending a Research Experience for Teachers Program with International and Societally Relevant Components

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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

RET Initiatives

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.684.1 - 23.684.21

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Paper Authors

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Zornitsa Georgieva West Virginia University


Reagan Curtis West Virginia University

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Reagan Curtis, Ph.D., is Associate Professor of Educational Psychology and director of the Program Evaluation and Research Center at West Virginia University. He pursues a diverse research agenda including areas of interest in (a) the development of mathematical and scientific knowledge across the lifespan, (b) online delivery methods and pedagogical approaches to university instruction, and (c) research methodology, program evaluation, and data analysis (qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methodological) for studies in developmental, educational, and counseling contexts. E-mail:

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Tyler A Saenz Saenz West Virginia University


Miracle David Solley West Virginia University

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Dave Solley is currently the Undergraduate Program Coordinator in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at West Virginia University. He is a student in the Curriculum and Instruction Ed. D. program at West Virginia University.

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Darran Cairns West Virginia University

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Impact of Attending a Research Experience for Teachers Program with International and Societally Relevant ComponentsWe report evidence of impact on 23 in-service teachers from high-need, low-SES rural schooldistricts in Appalachia across three annual iterations of an NSF-funded Research Experience forTeachers (RET) program. Novel elements of our program situated engineering research,educational experiences, and problem-based pedagogy in societally relevant energy andenvironment contexts in engineering laboratories and secondary schools in the eastern UnitedStates and in the United Kingdom.Sample research programs teachers engaged: 1. Materials for Energy Efficiency: Investigation of process-structure-property relationships in developing highly insulating aerogel blanket materials and solar reflecting polymer films for energy efficient windows. This work included thermal measurements, surface characterization, optical measurements, and electron microscopy. 2. Energy Efficiency for Transportation: Investigation of energy wastage during vehicle operation and possibilities for energy recovery. This work included data logging, a vehicle-road load model, and experimentation with hybrid electric-drive systems.The international component included: 1. Research in engineering labs in the United Kingdom to develop a global context for research and development in energy and the environment. These labs were coordinated around hydrogen as a fuel source, investigating multiple approaches to generation, storage, utilization, and scaling up. 2. Observation in UK secondary schools utilizing PBL with diverse student populations, followed by focus group discussions among participating teachers and faculty regarding similarities and differences across contexts.We worked as a multidisciplinary team integrating skill sets and perspectives from a Departmentof Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, a Department of Technology, Learning, and Culture,and a Program Evaluation and Research Center. This brought together expertise shaped throughexperience in engineering bench science, social and educational research, teaching and learningin secondary schools, and evaluation of externally funded education programs. Perspectivescommon across team members included the importance of hands-on experience in societallyrelevant contexts to drive learning1-5 and a commitment to utilizing mixed methodologicalevaluation for continuous quality improvement. The first of these drove the design of the RET toinclude hands-on research experience for teachers in engineering research labs in two nationsand to include problem-based learning (PBL) as a pedagogical tool to bring teachers’ RETexperiences into their classrooms6-7. We chose energy and environment as a societally relevanttheme through which teachers’ engineering research experiences and PBL lessons wouldmotivate learners. Our program evaluation perspective kept us focused on key project outcomesto provide continuous quantitative and qualitative feedback from participating teachers andproject personnel to improve the program as it unfolded8-10.In the full paper, we will describe significant and meaningful impact on teacher contentknowledge and attitudes toward science and engineering, increased appreciation of relationshipstying science fundamentals to technology applications and economic development, and theimpact on teachers of the international component (UK research, school observation, and culturalexperience). Quantitative and qualitative evidence for impact includes pre/post surveys (Likert-type and open-ended), teacher content knowledge tests (Force Concept Inventory, CalculusReadiness, AP Chemistry), school observation focus groups, exit interviews, written reflectionson school observations, and evaluator field notes. References1 Chang, S., & Chiu, M. (2005). The development of authentic assessments to investigate ninth graders' scientific literacy: In the case of scientific cognition concerning the concepts of chemistry and physics. International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, 3(1), 117-140.2 Edelson, D.C. (2001). Learning-for-use: A framework for integrating content and process learning in the design of inquiry activities. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(3), 355–385.3 English, L. D. (2003). Reconciling theory, research, and practice: A models and modelling perspective. Educational Studies in Mathematics, 54(2/3): 225-248.4 Fortus, D., Krajcik, J., Dershimer, R., Marx, R. W., & Mamlok-Naaman, R. (2005). Design- Based Science and Real-World Problem-Solving. Research Report. International Journal Of Science Education, 27(7), 855-879.5 Lesh, R., & Zawojewski, J. (2007). Problem Solving and Modeling. In F. Lester (Ed.), Second Handbook of Research on Mathematics Teaching and Learning (pp.763-804). Information Age Publishing Inc.6 Blumenfeld, P. C., Soloway, E., Marx, R. W., Krajcik, J. S., Guzdial, M. & Palincsar, A. (1991). Motivating project-based learning: Sustaining the doing, supporting the learning. Educational Psychologist, 26, 369-398.7 Uyeda, S., Madden, J., Brigham, L. A., Luft, J. A., & Washburne, J. (2002). Solving authentic science problems: Problem-based learning connects science with the world beyond school. The Science Teacher, 69 (1), 24-29.8 Greene, J., Caracelli, V., & Graham, W. (1989). Toward a conceptual framework for mixed- method evaluation designs. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 11(3), 255-274.9 Isaac, S. & Michael, W. B. (1997). Handbook in research and evaluation: For education and the behavioral sciences ( 3rd ed.). San Diego, CA: Educational and Industrial Testing Services10 Searle, C. (2003). Quality in qualitative research. In Lincoln, Y.S. and N.K. Denzin (Eds.). Turning points in qualitative research: Tying knots in a handkerchief. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Georgieva, Z., & Curtis, R., & Saenz, T. A., & Solley, M. D., & Cairns, D. (2013, June), Impact of Attending a Research Experience for Teachers Program with International and Societally Relevant Components Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia.

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