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Teacher Professional Development In Grades 3 5: Fostering Teachers' And Students’ Content Knowledge In Science And Engineering

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2010 Annual Conference & Exposition


Louisville, Kentucky

Publication Date

June 20, 2010

Start Date

June 20, 2010

End Date

June 23, 2010



Conference Session

Engineering Professional Development for K-12 Teachers

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

15.1164.1 - 15.1164.15



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Paper Authors

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Augusto Macalalag Stevens Institute of Technology

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Susan Lowes Teachers College/Columbia University

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Karen Guo Teachers College/Columbia University

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Devayani Tirthali Teachers College/Columbia University

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Mercedes McKay Stevens Institute of Technology

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Elisabeth McGrath Stevens Institute of Technology

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Teacher Professional Development in Grades 3-5: Fostering Teachers’ and Students’ Content Knowledge in Science and Engineering


Innovative, research-based professional development is needed to help teachers implement science and engineering education in elementary schools. This is a challenging task, particularly for teachers who many have little familiarity with either science inquiry or the engineering design process (EDP), and who may not have developed the instructional strategies needed to facilitate student inquiry and engagement in EDP. In the Partnership to Improve Student Achievement (PISA) study, 43 grade 3-5 teachers in New Jersey participated in a two-week summer workshop, three workshops during the school year, and received monthly classroom support visits, which comprised one year of instructional activities in a three-year professional development program. The study also included 737 students taught by teachers in the treatment group, 35 teachers in the comparison group, and 684 students taught by teachers in the comparison group. We analyzed pre- and post- tests of teachers and students in both groups and teacher activity implementation surveys. Results from the pre- and post- tests showed that the treatment teachers significantly increased their content knowledge in science and engineering compared to the comparison group. Similarly, post-test scores of students in the treatment group were significantly higher than the post-test scores of students in the comparison group. Teachers noted that scientific inquiry and the engineering design process promoted 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication among students. Finally, further data analysis revealed that the number of PISA lessons that teachers implemented in their classrooms was a significant predictor of students’ test scores. In this paper, we report on the professional development model that we used and the results of our study.


Exemplary professional development (PD) for teachers can have a positive impact on students’ learning and the classroom environment. Specifically, Blank & de las Alas1 found successful PD experiences for math teachers contributed to an increase in teachers’ subject knowledge, pedagogy, and students’ content knowledge. However, teacher PD that focuses on integrating science and engineering in elementary schools is still in its infancy. The engineering component of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education has been overlooked in K-12 teacher education for many years2. To address these challenges, an intensive teacher professional development program was launched in 2007 to infuse high quality, research-based engineering lessons into elementary science education by working with the same group of teachers over a three-year period. Results from the first year of the program showed that teachers and students in the treatment group had statistically significant learning gains in science and engineering concepts and skills as well as in the targeted science content alone3. Further, teachers’ knowledge of and use of inquiry-based science instruction also increased4. In the second year of this program, the PISA built on professional development efforts by providing 43 grade 3-5 teachers in N.J. with inquiry-based coursework focusing on strengthening teachers’ understanding of science concepts (in this case, earth science); hands-on experience using

Macalalag, A., & Lowes, S., & Guo, K., & Tirthali, D., & McKay, M., & McGrath, E. (2010, June), Teacher Professional Development In Grades 3 5: Fostering Teachers' And Students’ Content Knowledge In Science And Engineering Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15724

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