June 26, 2011
June 26, 2011
June 29, 2011
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
22.1322.1 - 22.1322.23
STEM Integration in a Pre-College Course in Digital Electronics: Analysis of the Enacted CurriculumAbstractThere is general agreement amongst educators, policy makers and professionals that teachingand learning in STEM areas at the K-12 level must be improved. More specifically, concernsabout the preparedness of high school students to improve the innovation capacity of the UnitedStates are leveled following data showing US students performing below students in otherindustrialized nations on international math and science tests. To address both the preparednessfor and the appeal of engineering, technical education programs have emerged that providehands-on, project-based curricula that focus on the integration of mathematics and scienceknowledge with engineering activities. Cognitive science research emphasizes that integration ofnew ideas with students’ prior knowledge must be made explicit in order to promote successfultransfer to novel problem-solving and design contexts. Thus, integration of mathematics andengineering is important both for mainline (general education) as well as pipeline (careerpreparation) goals for engineering education.This study uses actual classroom observations to try to understand how students in the highschool classroom learn and integrate mathematics and engineering skills and concepts based onthe teacher’s actions in a portion of the Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Digital Electronics ™curriculum. Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a four-year, pre-engineering curriculum adopted byover 10% of all US high schools in all 50 states, is an important exemplar of how these programsstrive to implement this integration in public schools. All PLTW courses are project based,allowing for unique opportunities to view how teachers and students interact to bring thecurriculum alive.This paper reports on findings from our quantitative/qualitative analysis of video data from sevenPLTW lessons from the foundations course Digital Electronics ™ as implemented in an urbanhigh school. The analyses were motivated by three research questions: 1. How is class time distributed between teacher-centered instruction, teacher-directed tutoring of teams or individuals, student-directed collaboration, and non-instructional (e.g., administrative) tasks? 2. What portion of class time is spent on concepts that are central to STEM education, or to technical skills? 3. How frequently do we observe explicit integration (as opposed to the implicit embedding) of mathematics and science ideas in engineering activities and lessons?Our coding framework delineates three different dimensions: A. Instruction time codes subdivide each class period based on how the instructor interacts with students. B. Concepts mark engagement with “big ideas” from STEM, such as modularity in engineering, projection in mathematics, and Kirchoff’s laws in physics. We separately note whether the math and science concepts are explicitly integrated during instruction. C. Skills address process-oriented tasks that may not require conceptual understanding but are important for doing practical engineering work.We found that this curriculum introduces a lot of mathematics to students that goes above andbeyond state and national high school standards. Much of this mathematics is conceptual, ratherthan skills based. Students learn about numbers (binary operations), Boolean algebra andKarnaugh maps – primarily through lectures (which constitute 44% of the instruction time).Some skills, such as reasoning, are tied in to the lessons. Most of the engineering skills andconcepts focus on building digital circuits and solving logic problems related to circuit design.Instruction time is spent primarily on project work (69%, some of which overlaps with lecturesand other instructional activities), both amongst student/student partners and with the guidanceof the instructor.One key contribution is the method we have developed for identifying the occurrences andmissed opportunities for explicit integration of math concepts with engineering activities. Thisallows us to document opportunities where students’ conceptual knowledge is grounded inapplications and how conceptual knowledge in science and math can be generalized fromengineering activities. In comparison to the idealized (printed) curriculum, empirical research onthe enacted curriculum identifies where the challenges in K-12 engineering education lie andhow curriculum design and instruction may be improved to foster deeper learning of engineeringand mathematics.
Prevost, A. C., & Nathan, M. J., & Atwood, A. K., & Phelps, L. A. (2011, June), STEM Integration in a Pre-College Course in Digital Electronics: Analysis of the Enacted Curriculum Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. https://peer.asee.org/18769
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