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Lessons Learned From A Product Realization Ret Site: Maximizing Success For Teacher Research And High School Student Impact

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K-12 Teac

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.849.1 - 13.849.12



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Paper Authors

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Birdy Reynolds University of Pittsburgh

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Matthew Mehalik University of Pittsburgh

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Michael Lovell University of Pittsburgh

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Christian Schunn University of Pittsburgh

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

Lessons Learned from a Product Realization RET Site: Maximizing Success for Teacher Research and High School Student Impact Abstract

Recent trends suggest a degradation of our nation's technological competitiveness and the significant decline in the number of K-12 students interested in STEM subjects-- science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields. Educators of our next generation of technical leaders, particularly those at the pre-college level, are the critical links for overcoming these challenges. However, classroom teachers of science tend to have instructional strategies that are not authentic to the work of engineers and scientists and have. Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) are programs focused on facilitating a solution to this problem. The intended goal is to bring knowledge of engineering and technological innovation to the pre-college classrooms by engaging teachers in research experiences that can be “taken back” to the classroom. That is easier said then done. Most RET programs tend to be effective at one objective or the other, that is to say either providing a framework that engages teachers in authentic research experiences or providing classroom experiences that promote engineering awareness. Our RET site is unique in that we have designed our program such that we are able to realize both objectives utilizing engineering design via the process of product realization as the basis of the research teacher conduct. By bringing together two highly recognized departments in fields of product realization and learning sciences we have create opportunities that provide rigorous engineering design research and curriculum development experience for teachers. The outcome has been that teachers take back to the classroom real world innovative design experiences and a curriculum that promotes awareness, interest and increased student achievement.


In 2001, the principal investigator of our RET site began a program to promote diversity within the field of engineering and feed underrepresented minority students into our undergraduate university engineering program. The program, which we will refer to as the Engineering Career Access Program (ECAP), was successful at increasing college enrollment for the students who participated in the program, however, those students rarely enrolled in engineering programs. Table 1 shows how from 2001-2004 almost all of the ECAP participants entered college, but less only 10% of the students enrolled in engineering fields. These numbers were very surprising, because 88% of the students exiting the program expressed a strong interest in majoring in engineering during exit interviews. Further study into this trend suggested that teacher expectations about engineering might be influencing the low enrollment rates. A broader study finding suggested that while 88% of K-12 teachers believe that engineering is important for understanding the world around us, only 30% of teachers feel that their students could succeed as engineers.1 As the college-bound ECAP students went back to school, it is likely that their high school teachers steered them away from engineering majors because many of those teachers did not understand what it meant to be an engineer or did not believe that their students could do the work of engineers. As a result, the principal investigator became interested in hosting an RET program as a vehicle to address this problem by supplementing ECAP. The purpose of the RET

Reynolds, B., & Mehalik, M., & Lovell, M., & Schunn, C. (2008, June), Lessons Learned From A Product Realization Ret Site: Maximizing Success For Teacher Research And High School Student Impact Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--4271

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