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Teaching the Nature of Engineering in K-12 Science Education: A Delphi Study (Fundamental)

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2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Columbus, Ohio

Publication Date

June 24, 2017

Start Date

June 24, 2017

End Date

June 28, 2017

Conference Session

Pre-College: Fundamental Research in Engineering Education (2)

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

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Paper Authors


Brian Hartman Walla Walla University

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Brian is a professor of education at Walla Walla University. He has 5 years of experience teaching high school science and practiced engineering for 12 years. His research interests include K-12 biological and chemical engineering curriculum development, nature of engineering, and creativity in engineering design.

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Randy L. Bell Oregon State University

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Dr. Bell is an Associate Dean and Professor of Science Education in the College of Education at Oregon State University. His science background includes degrees in Botany and Forest Ecology. Dr. Bell’s interest in sharing science with others led him to earn a teaching license and then teach science for six years in a rural high school in Eastern Oregon, where he was recognized as the Oregon Science Teachers Association’s “New Science Teacher of the Year.” Eventually, Dr. Bell’s interest in educational research and science teacher preparation led him back to graduate school, where he earned the PhD in Science Education in 1999. For the past 16 years, Dr. Bell has been heavily involved in teaching preservice teachers, providing professional development for practicing teachers, and research and development related to teaching and learning about the nature of science and scientific inquiry. Dr. Bell also conducts research and develops resources for integrating technology into science teaching. Dr. Bell has maintained strong ties to public schools through a variety of collaborative projects. Most recently, he completed a 28 million-dollar US DOE-funded I3 project designed to provide research-based professional development to Virginia’s elementary and secondary science teachers. The author of more than 170 articles, chapters and books, Randy currently serves as Associate Dean of Academics and Professor of Science Education in the College of Education at Oregon State University.

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Recent state and national standards have increased interest in engineering at the K-12 level. Science standards, in particular, have begun to make the case for including engineering throughout the K-12 scope of study. Despite the increased attention to engineering, the characteristics and uniqueness of the field of engineering are not clearly defined. Current policies and curricula typically present engineering in a narrow way – primarily as design. Understanding the nature of engineering as a field is an important goal for K-12 engineering education. Helping students understand the nature of engineering will help them see the field from a broader perspective and has the potential to improve student engineering literacy. This area of engineering education is not often considered in engineering education. The goal of this research is to elucidate aspects of the nature of engineering that are appropriate to teach at the K-12 level. Experts in K-12 engineering education were invited to participate in a classic, three-round Delphi study. A total of 610 participants responded to notices posted on engineering education association email lists. These respondents were sorted into four groups: a) science teachers, b) engineering teachers, c) science education faculty, and d) engineering education faculty. From the 428 qualified respondents, a subset of 25 participants from each group were chosen randomly (for a total of 100) to participate in the survey. Of the 65 panel members who completed Round 1 of the survey, 60 also completed Rounds 2 and 3 for a retention rate of 92%. The participants identified eight aspects of the nature of engineering they believed were important to K-12 education. These aspects were proposed by participants in Round 1 in response to an open-ended question and refined through Rounds 2 and 3 using a Likert-type scale of importance. Participants identified the following aspects as important: Divergent, Creative, Iterative, Model-driven, Communicative, Constrained by Criteria, Collaborative, and A Unique Way of Knowing. The present investigation provides an empirical basis for important concepts of the nature of engineering at the K-12 level. This work is important to support development of policy, curriculum, instruction, and to provide a foundation for improved science education.

Hartman, B., & Bell, R. L. (2017, June), Teaching the Nature of Engineering in K-12 Science Education: A Delphi Study (Fundamental) Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. 10.18260/1-2--28927

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