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Infusing Engineering Concepts into Science: Findings from a Professional Development Project (Research to Practice)

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Addressing the NGSS, Part 3 of 3: Supporting High School Science Teachers in Engineering Pedagogy and Engineering-Science Connections

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.751.1 - 24.751.17



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Paper Authors


Rodney L Custer Black Hills State University

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Dr. Custer is Provost and V.P. for Academic Affairs at Black Hills State University. He is PI on Project Infuse, a NSF funded project to research an engineering concept-based approach to professional development in life and physical science at the secondary level.

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Julia M. Ross University of Maryland, Baltimore County


Jenny Daugherty Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Assistant Professor in the Department of Technology Leadership and Innovation at Purdue University

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Infusing Engineering Concepts into Science: Findings from a Pilot Test Professional Development Project (Research to Practice)This paper describes the findings from a pilot test of a two year professional developmentprogram focused on infusing engineering into biology and physics at the secondary level. Thisproject was funded by the National Science Foundation to research teacher learning through aninnovative approach to professional development that is engineering concept-driven. This isparticularly timely with the recent publication of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)and the inclusion of an engineering dimension in science. The project research team has beeninvestigating how to infuse engineering concepts into science given the time, resource, andcurricular constraints of school environments. Specific implementation issues have beenidentified as important as teachers incorporate engineering concepts into their instruction.Twenty-one teachers were involved in the pilot phase of the program. Two separate, but closelyrelated, professional development programs were conducted, one for physics teachers and theother for biology teachers. During the first year, 11 teachers participated in the physics programand 10 in the biology program. In the second year, all 11 of the physics teachers returned and 7of the biology teachers returned. The professional development program involved the teachers ina series of summer institutes and school year activities for two years. During the summerinstitutes, teachers were engaged in three major types of activities, including (a) conceptualdevelopment, (b) curriculum infusion, and (c) classroom preparation. The teachers engaged inactivities designed to build their conceptual understanding of engineering, including case studyanalysis, historical reviews, concept mapping, and engagement with engineering design analysisactivities. Curriculum infusion activities included revising existing curriculum modules anddeveloping engineering infused lessons. Finally, classroom preparation activities focused onapplying the lessons learned in the summer institutes to their classrooms. The primary activitythat occurred for the teachers during the school year between the two summer institutes was thedelivery of the concept-infused lessons to students. In preparation for this process, the summerinstitute included reflection on the pedagogical knowledge, skills, techniques, and challengesassociated with developing and implementing engineering infused lessons.Utilizing a mixed method research design, the project has deployed an iterative process includingdata collection and analysis protocols and designing a set of professional development activities.Specifically, the project has focused on several research and education activities including: (a)refining the conceptual base of engineering for secondary level learning, (b) preparing a set ofprofessional development activities that will develop teachers’ understanding of engineeringconcepts and engage the teachers in a process of curriculum concept infusion, and (c) developingthe instrumentation to collect data on the teachers’ understandings of the engineering conceptsand how this impacts their teaching. Evaluation data collected through teacher surveys,interviews, and training and classroom observations have also informed the process. This paperhighlights the findings from the pilot test cohort including the key issues involved with infusingengineering concepts into physics and biology.

Custer, R. L., & Ross, J. M., & Daugherty, J. (2014, June), Infusing Engineering Concepts into Science: Findings from a Professional Development Project (Research to Practice) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20643

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