New Orleans, Louisiana
June 26, 2016
June 26, 2016
August 28, 2016
NSF Grantees Poster Session
K-12 teachers are increasingly asked to include engineering design in their classes, yet compared to science and mathematics, there are relatively few teacher professional development programs focused on engineering (Katehi, Pearson and Feder 2009). Professional development opportunities that are content specific (Schaefer-Zarkske 2004), inquiry-based, and learning-centered (Anderson and Herr 2011) are most successful. Similarly, middle school students are most engaged by educational activities centered on active inquiry and on developing critical thinking skills (Ambrose, et al. 2010, Bransford, Brown and Cocking 2000, Duschel 2007, Penuel, et al. 2007). Here we describe an immersive integrated research and teaching program for middle school teachers based on the engineering design process that we developed to inspire inquiry and active learning, and implemented from 2008-2015.
In our program, funded by two successive NSF Research Experiences for Teachers (RET) grants, teachers participated in authentic independent design projects in research labs mentored by faculty, and developed design-based inquiry curriculum units for their classes. Following the summer RET experience, teachers taught the curricula to their students and assessed learning outcomes using validated instruments during the academic year. An external evaluation consultant (author JH) assessed teacher ratings of 1) competence in teaching the engineering design process, 2) knowledge of biomedical engineering and 3) knowledge of the engineering design process through pre and post-test responses.
In the most recent grant period, 20 teachers taught their curriculum units to over 2,500 middle-school students. Students’ percentages of correct scores show gains in their knowledge of the engineering design process from 55% ± 26% at the beginning of instruction to 75% ± 21% at the end (t-test, p<0.01, n = 2069 responses). Teachers reported an increase in their competency to teach the engineering design process. Whereas they rated themselves poor to good at the beginning of the program, all teachers rated themselves as having good or excellent competence at the end (p <.01, Wilcoxon signed ranks Z = 3.0). Teachers’ knowledge of biomedical engineering and the engineering design process increased from 59% ± 17% to 79% ± 12% (t-test, p <.01).
Our data demonstrate that our RET program aided in increasing teachers’ knowledge of engineering concepts and in their confidence to teach the engineering design process to their students. The program also facilitated the development and teaching of inquiry-based lessons which were effective in helping over 2,500 students learn engineering concepts. Many of these lessons were submitted to teachengineering.org for broader impact. Developing STEM lessons that address students’ needs and provide developmentally and pedagogically appropriate content within classroom constraints is a continuous challenge for K-12 teachers. Programs that combine authentic engineering research and curriculum development, such as the one described herein, are critical for aiding K-12 teachers in educating and motivating the next generation of technologically literate students.
Billiar, K., & Hubelbank, J., & Quinn, J., & Oliva, T. A., & Rolle, M. W., & Camesano, T. A. (2016, June), Participating in Authentic Engineering Projects Improves Teachers’ Ability to Teach the Design Process to Middle School Students Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25856
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