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Learning Through Doing: Preservice Elementary Teacher Reflections on the Engineering Design Process (Fundamental)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Technical Session 6

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Matthew Perkins Coppola Purdue University Fort Wayne Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Perkins Coppola is an Assistant Professor of Science Education in the School of Education at Purdue University Fort Wayne. His research agenda centers on elementary and secondary preservice teacher preparation. While a lecturer at Towson University in 2014, he was inspired to research engineering design pedagogy in elementary schools after attending a talk by Dr. Pamela Lottero-Perdue. He began his career as a high school physics teacher in Kentucky before serving as director of the Robeson Planetarium and Science Center in Lumberton, NC for four years. He left in 2003 to accept a dual appointment graduate assistantship in engineering and education at the University of Tennessee. A year later he accepted a physics teaching position at Oak Ridge High School in Oak Ridge, TN and continued his Ph.D. work. His interests in astronomy and engineering served him well as a coach and eventual sponsor for Science Olympiad and co-founder of FIRST Robotics Championship Team 4265. At Purdue University Fort Wayne he currently serves as director of the Northeast Indiana Regional Science and Engineering Fair.

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Best practices for preparing preservice teachers to integrate engineering design into the K-6 curriculum are still being determined. Recognizing that the inclusion of engineering into national and state science standards is still quite new (NGSS Lead States, 2013), the majority of people entering elementary education programs never participated an engineering design lesson, much less in the context of an elementary classroom.

The purpose of this study was to examine what preservice teachers experienced and how they learned through one approach to integrating engineering design pedagogy into a science methods course. Preservice elementary teachers (PET) first participated in an engineering design challenge, spread across two three-hour class sessions and organized in the five-step engineering design process conceived by Engineering is Elementary (Cunningham, 2018). Then PET were assigned the task of adapting or creating their own two-day engineering mini unit to deliver during their school-based field experience. After receiving feedback from the professor, the PET taught the lessons in a K-5 classroom. After teaching, the PET completed a structured reflection comprised of Likert-style and open-ended questions.

This qualitative study delved into the structured reflections of 121 participants from six semesters of implementation to provide insights into the PET’s perceptions of how they taught the lessons. Responses to four open-ended questions were chosen for this analysis: (1) What sections of the lesson went according to plan?; (2) What sections of the lesson did you have to adjust or omit?; (3) What things would you adjust or do differently the next time?; and (4) What is the most important thing you have learned from your experience teaching engineering design?

Five themes emerged through the analysis of responses. These included (1) time and time management; (2) selection and properties of materials; (3) classroom management; (4) grouping and teamwork; and (5) improved attitudes toward teaching engineering to elementary students. Implications for future iterations of teacher preparation include the importance of being a participant, a planner, and a facilitator of engineering design.

Perkins Coppola, M. (2021, July), Learning Through Doing: Preservice Elementary Teacher Reflections on the Engineering Design Process (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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