New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
Pre-College Engineering Education Division
In recent years, educators have come to appreciate that teaching and learning of difficult science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) content can benefit from visually stimulating and versatile uses of a myriad of technological tools, e.g., the LEGO robotics kit. Teachers who are inexperienced in constructing authentic learning activities around the robotics platform need acquisition of necessary skills to meaningfully address issues of disciplinary content through seamless integration of technology to enhance pedagogy. The increasing adoption of technology in education has led to the development of a conceptual framework for teacher knowledge of technology integration termed as technological-pedagogical-content knowledge (TPACK). This study examines middle school teachers’ growth in their TPACK understanding through a summer professional development (PD) workshop focused on exploring the design and testing of robotics-focused lessons as well as their alignment with science and math learning standards.
The PD workshop centered on collaboration between engineers, education researchers, and four middle school science and math teachers. Prior to the workshop, the engineers and education researchers collaboratively created a standards-aligned curriculum consisting of five math and five science lessons aimed at mitigating content-specific pedagogical struggles through the integration of robotics. Unlike the technocentric approach to technology integration, where lesson contents are planned around a technological application, in this study, the development of each of the 10 lessons was driven by content-specific needs. Throughout the PD, a TPACK perspective was employed to introduce each lesson to the teachers, allowing them to examine and understand the teaching and learning benefits derived from the robot-based lesson.
It is important that technology integration in the classroom aim to improve students’ ability to learn. During the three-week PD, teachers gained the ability to recognize classroom applications of robots that could be useful versus unnecessary. The gains in teachers’ knowledge became apparent during the third week of PD when investigating a geometry-focused robotics lesson. This lesson was intended to explore how 3D objects consist of 2D layers. A robot was used to draw 2D shapes on a cardboard surface following which students cut out the drawings to construct a 3D object, similar to a 3D printer. We explored teachers’ negative reactions to the robot’s role in this lesson and the justifications behind their reasoning. Having determined that the originally designed lesson lacked relevance to classroom, participating teachers and researchers discussed other math content that middle school students struggle to understand. Following this discussion, teachers created a mobile robot-based lesson to transform one of their existing lessons, on addition and subtraction with positive and negative integers, for creating an exciting and effective classroom activity with a visual representation of the solution process.
As a final assessment of teachers’ TPACK, on the last day of the PD, the teachers were asked to answer a set of questions designed to identify the role of the robot in each of the 10 lessons. Teachers were able to identify the pedagogical constraints of each lesson and the benefits of incorporating the robot as a teaching tool. Major benefits that were identified include: creating visual representations of abstract concepts, introducing manipulatives that encourage student participation, and incorporating embedded storylines to produce real-world connections.
Through this PD, the teachers gained a solid understanding of TPACK and learned ways to construct lessons that engage students while addressing content-specific pedagogical challenges. The full version of this paper will elaborate on the format of the PD, the geometry lesson case-study, and the teacher responses to the final reflection of each lesson.
Brill, A. S., & Elliott, C. H., & Listman, J. B., & Milne, C. E., & Kapila, V. (2016, June), Middle School Teachers' Evolution of TPACK Understanding through Professional Development Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25720
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