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Professional Development through Situated Learning Techniques Adapted with Design-Based Research

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Professional Development for Students and Teachers

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Matthew Moorhead New York University

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Matthew Moorhead received his B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2014. He is currently pursuing a M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Brooklyn, NY, where he is a teaching fellow in their GK-12 program. Matthew also conducts research in the Mechatronics and Controls Laboratory with an interest in robotics and controls.

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Colin Hennessy Elliott New York University

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Colin received his B.S. in Physics in 2010 and M.S. in Science and Technology Studies in 2011, both from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. After that, he taught high school Physics in Newark NJ. He is currently a Ph.D student at NYU in Science Education, working on multiple projects which focus on urban science education. Colin's interested in studying urban science education around issues of equity, learning in and out of school, teacher preparation and students from multiple lenses.

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Jennifer B. Listman New York University

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Dr. Jennifer Listman is the Assistant Director, Program Development and Evaluation, Center for K12 STEM Education, New York University Polytechnic School of Engineering. As the Center’s resident research scientist, she conducts and publishes assessments and outcomes evaluations of Center programs for stewardship, research, and development purposes. Dr. Listman received her B.A. in Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1991 and her PhD in Anthropological Genetics from New York University in 2009. She conducted research on human evolutionary and migratory history in South East Asian populations and Jewish populations using genomic data and carried out collection of saliva samples as a DNA source from over 500 individuals in rural Thailand, to create a DNA resource of six ethnic populations. In addition, while Associate Research Scientist at Yale University School of Medicine, she conducted research on the evolutionary history of genes involved in alcohol metabolism and substance abuse. She has been awarded grants from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

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Catherine E. Milne New York University

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Catherine Milne is professor in science education at New York University. Her research interests include urban science education, socio-cultural nature of learning, the role of the history of science in learning science, the development and use of multimedia for teaching and learning science, and the nature and role of technology in STEM learning. She is co-Editor-in-Chief for the journal, Cultural Studies of Science Education and co-editor of two book series for Springer Publishers and Sense Publishers.

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Vikram Kapila New York University Orcid 16x16

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Vikram Kapila is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at NYU Tandon School of Engineering (NYU Tandon), where he directs a Mechatronics and Control Laboratory, a Research Experience for Teachers Site in Mechatronics and Entrepreneurship, a GK-12 Fellows project, and a DR K-12 research project, all funded by NSF. He has held visiting positions with the Air Force Research Laboratories in Dayton, OH. His research interests include K-12 STEM education, mechatronics, robotics, and control system technology. Under Research Experience for Teachers Site and GK-12 Fellows programs, funded by NSF, and the Central Brooklyn STEM Initiative (CBSI), funded by six philanthropic foundations, he has conducted significant K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach activities to integrate engineering concepts in science classrooms and labs of dozens of New York City public schools. He received NYU Tandon’s 2002, 2008, 2011, and 2014 Jacobs Excellence in Education Award, 2002 Jacobs Innovation Grant, 2003 Distinguished Teacher Award, and 2012 Inaugural Distinguished Award for Excellence in the category Inspiration through Leadership. Moreover, he is a recipient of 2014-2015 University Distinguished Teaching Award at NYU. In 2004, he was selected for a three-year term as a Senior Faculty Fellow of NYU Tandon’s Othmer Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies. His scholarly activities have included 3 edited books, 8 chapters in edited books, 1 book review, 55 journal articles, and 126 conference papers. He has mentored 1 B.S., 17 M.S., and 4 Ph.D. thesis students; 31 undergraduate research students and 11 undergraduate senior design project teams; over 300 K-12 teachers and 100 high school student researchers; and 18 undergraduate GK-12 Fellows and 60 graduate GK-12 Fellows. Moreover, he directs K-12 education, training, mentoring, and outreach programs that enrich the STEM education of over 1,500 students annually.

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Advancements in technology offer new ways for teachers to inspire and educate students; however, implementation of new technology in the learning environment creates unique challenges for educators. These challenges require professional development (PD) programs that are capable of increasing teacher knowledge about the technology as well as the teacher’s ability to create learner-centered experiences.

The LEGO Mindstorms EV3 robotics kit is an example of such a technology. The robotics kit offers an interactive and fun addition to the learning environment for helping to engage students through intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivators are driven by a person’s internal desires, interests, or reward system. Although this may not be a factor for every student, for many students accustomed to a traditional learning environment, the novelty and high-tech nature of the LEGO EV3 kits engenders self-interest, thus producing the incentive of intrinsic motivation. Alternatively, extrinsic motivation occurs when a person performs a task to avoid punishment or seek external rewards. In such a case, the opportunity to work with the robotics kit itself is a reward, which can serve as a hook to promote teaching and learning of math and science concepts. The robotics platform can flexibly embed real-world applications within learning situations in math and science classrooms.

This paper examines the design-based research (DBR) process as it is applied to iteratively generate and evolve a PD program. A team of education and engineering experts collaborated to develop robotics activities for enhancing student learning while meeting the Common Core Math Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. These activities were presented to a pilot cohort of pairs of math-science teachers from two middle schools. The three week PD was designed to increase the confidence and ability of the teachers to integrate robotics activities in their lessons. Each week the PD sessions were altered as necessary to effect changes determined through the iterative design process by the research group.

The education researchers and engineers designed the PD sessions consistent with situated learning where the collaborative group was centered on learning situations such as building the robot with specific learning standards in mind, using the robot as a pedagogical tool, and designing lessons that utilize the robot in specific situations. All involved engaged in “legitimate peripheral participation” which informed the format of PD dynamically. One key objective of the research was to evaluate the use of situated learning for the purposes of PD by means of DBR.

Following the PD, the lessons developed were implemented at two urban middle schools in math and science classrooms. Researchers observed lesson implementations to determine the efficacy of the PD and to identify additional changes warranted to improve the designed lessons and the next iteration of the PD offering. Through this process, the research team aims to show that DBR is an effective method for creating and iteratively refining curricula and PD program capable of endowing teachers with skills necessary to utilize technology in a meaningful way that not only supports student learning but increases student engagement.

Moorhead, M., & Elliott, C. H., & Listman, J. B., & Milne, C. E., & Kapila, V. (2016, June), Professional Development through Situated Learning Techniques Adapted with Design-Based Research Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.25967

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: © 2016 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