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The Use of Concept Mapping to Structure a Conceptual Foundation for Secondary Level Engineering Education

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2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Vancouver, BC

Publication Date

June 26, 2011

Start Date

June 26, 2011

End Date

June 29, 2011



Conference Session

Core Concepts, Standards, and Policy in K-12 Engineering Education

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

22.1508.1 - 22.1508.14



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Paper Authors


Jenny L. Daugherty Purdue University

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Dr. Jenny Daugherty is an Assistant Professor in the Organizational Leadership & Supervision Department in the College of Technology at Purdue University. Her research focuses on the design of technology and engineering professional development and the associated learning outcomes.

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Rodney L. Custer Illinois State University

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Dr. Custer is Associate Vice-President for Research, Graduate Studies, and International Education at Illinois State University. His research focus is on engineering-oriented, secondary level professional development.

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Raymond A. Dixon Illinois State University, CeMaST

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Raymond Dixon is a research associate for the Center for Mathematics Science and Technology at Illinois State University. His research focus is on expert cognition in engineering design.

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Numerous K-12 engineering initiatives have emerged across the U.S (Brophy, Klein, Portsmore,& Rogers, 2008). These initiatives have generated considerable interest within the STEMeducation community and beyond. Potential positive outcomes include enhanced studentachievement, increased awareness of engineering, and increased levels of technological literacy(Katehi, Pearson, & Feder, 2009). However, a recent study (authors) of engineering-orientedteacher professional development projects detected some significant concerns. One disturbingfinding was the lack of a well-defined concept base. In the absence of a conceptual foundation,pre-collegiate level engineering tends to focus on engaging design-based activities without anappropriate grounding in content, which poses serious problems for curriculum and professionaldevelopment, assessment, and standards development.The session will present the results of two studies designed to address this void. The first studywas designed to identify and refine a set of core engineering concepts appropriate for secondarylevel engineering. The concepts were derived from a process that included an examination ofhistorical and philosophical literature, curriculum materials, and standards documents as well asfocus group sessions with engineering educators and practicing engineers. This generated anextensive set of themes, which were analyzed using three operationally defined criteria: core,engineering, and concept. The process yielded thirteen core engineering concepts (e.g., design,constraints, efficiency, optimization, etc.). The study also identified important issues includingontological implications, engineering’s social context and pedagogical implications.Subsequent to this study, a second study was conducted to further refine the outcomes of theinitial study. Specifically, the study was designed to better understand the nature of the concepts,particularly the structure of and interrelationship among the concepts. The study examined theuse of engineering concept maps to probe the connections among concepts. Concept mapsprovide a visual depiction of the knowledge structure of a concept and have been shown to be apowerful and psychometrically sound tool for assessing conceptual change (Markham &Mintzes, 1994). The objectives were to refine the concept base, map the relationships among theengineering concepts, and cross-map of the engineering concept maps with existing analyses ofconcepts in science and technology (AAAS 1993, National Science Standards, and ITEA, 2000).As with the initial study, the process began with an extensive review of the literature focused onconcept mapping. Particular attention was given to their use as a tool for understanding andstructuring concepts. We were also interested in learning more about how concept mapping canbe used as an assessment tool to measure levels and complexity of students’ conceptualunderstanding.Based on the assumption that conceptual understandings evolve from the rich experience andexpertise of a community of practitioners (in this case, the engineering community), a focusgroup comprised of science, technology, and engineering education experts, cognitive scientists,and secondary science and technology teachers was convened to explore the use of conceptmapping of the engineering concepts.The session will present an overview of understandings derived from the study, including thepotential use of concept mapping for promoting and assessing the understanding of engineeringconcepts. ReferencesAmerican Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (1993/2009). Benchmarks for science literacy. Project 2061. New York: Oxford University Press.Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2008). Advancing engineering education in P-12 classrooms. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(3), 369-387.International Technology Education Association (ITEA). (2000). Standards for technological literacy: Content for the study of technology. Reston, VA.
Katehi, L., Pearson, G., & Feder, M. (Eds.). (2009). National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. Engineering in K-12 education: Understanding the status and improving the prospects. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Markham, K. M., & Mintzes, J. J. (1994). The concept map as a research and evaluation tool: Further evidence of validity. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 31(1), 91-101.

Daugherty, J. L., & Custer, R. L., & Dixon, R. A. (2011, June), The Use of Concept Mapping to Structure a Conceptual Foundation for Secondary Level Engineering Education Paper presented at 2011 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Vancouver, BC. 10.18260/1-2--18776

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