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Middle School Math and Science Teachers Engaged in STEM and Literacy through Engineering Design (Evaluation)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Evaluation

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Reagan Curtis West Virginia University

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Reagan Curtis, Ph.D., is Professor of Educational Psychology and chair of the Department of Learning Sciences and Human Development 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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Johnna Bolyard West Virginia University

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Johnna Bolyard is an Associate Professor of elementary and middle grades mathematics education in the College of Education and Human Services at West Virginia University. Her research interests focus on the development of mathematics teachers, particularly how K-8 teachers develop into mathematics teacher leaders.

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Darran Cairns West Virginia University

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Darran is an Adjunct Associate Professor in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at West Virginia University.

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David Luke Loomis West Virginia University

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Sera Mathew


Kelly Leigh Watts Regional Educaion Service Agency 3

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Kelly Watts
Kelly has been the Executive Director for RESA 3 since July 2012. Previously, she was the Assistant Ex. Director and Program Development Director of RESA 2 for 7 years. She attained both her B.A. and M.A. from Marshall University and in 2001 she became a National Board Certified Teacher in Early Adolescent Mathematics and re-certified in 2011. Prior to RESA 2 she was the math facilitator and taught mathematics at both the middle and High School level. She has a monograph authored in the book entitled “A Decade of Middle School Mathematics Curriculum Implementations” published by Information Age as well as several Research Papers and Presentations that have been refereed. She presents at both the state and national level and has been awarded over $7 million in a variety of grant awards. In her spare time she visits with her 2 children and 2 grandsons.

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The full paper will describe a professional development program that supports integration of STEM and Literacy through Engineering Design for 24 in-service middle school math and science teachers in rural Appalachia. Through this program, teachers experience Engineering Design as learners, develop lesson plans utilizing engineering design to teach specific relevant math and science content standards and objectives, and receive formative feedback and content knowledge coaching as they deliver and fine-tune those lessons.

Project TESAL (Teachers Engaged in STEM and Literacy) is a three-year professional development program that includes annual two-week summer face-to-face intensive workshops followed by classroom observations with supportive feedback and four additional day-long trainings throughout the school year. We will describe the program in detail, as well as evaluation findings from the first two years of implementation.

Project TESAL successfully recruited a diverse group of mathematics, science, and special educators, and engaged them in professional development they find valuable. The Teacher Efficacy and Attitudes toward STEM (T-STEM) survey revealed that professional development successfully increased participating teachers’ confidence to teach engineering design, their confidence that they can influence their students’ STEM performance, and their knowledge of STEM careers, as well as the amount they expect to utilize technology and instruction following STEM best educational practices.

Diagnostic Teacher Assessments in Mathematics and Science (DTAMS) for middle school showed that participating teachers initially did poorly outside of their content area focus. Closer inspection of items on mathematics and science assessments revealed difficulty with questions requiring understanding beyond simple procedural knowledge of the mathematics and areas of weakness in Real World Newtonian Physics (MS-PS2-2 in Next Generation Science Standards) and Thermal Transport by Convection (MS-PS3-3). We targeted these areas of weakness through a roller coaster design project as a concrete example of real world Newtonian Physics and a design project to manufacture a lunch box to keep food warm, as well as multiple applications of mathematical thinking to solve engineering design challenges.

Participating teachers improved their content knowledge in targeted areas and identified several strengths of Project TESAL. Participants particularly valued being active participants in learning, opportunities for collaborating with peers and outside experts around the work of teaching, focusing on subject matter content across mathematics and science and students’ learning of that content, and the sustained ongoing nature of Project TESAL where the work teachers did in professional development was fully relevant to their work as classroom teachers. These strengths align directly with best practices for professional development and for overcoming the challenges of professional development specifically on math-science-engineering design integration and instruction.

Curtis, R., & Bolyard, J., & Cairns, D., & Loomis, D. L., & Mathew, S., & Watts, K. L. (2017, June), Middle School Math and Science Teachers Engaged in STEM and Literacy through Engineering Design (Evaluation) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28667

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2017 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015