June 20, 2010
June 20, 2010
June 23, 2010
K-12 & Pre-College Engineering
15.1273.1 - 15.1273.22
Tracking Middle School Perceptions of Engineering during an Inquiry Based Engineering Science and Design Curriculum
As the United States tries to remain technologically competitive with other nations the demand for engineering professionals is -12 engineering outreach programs have been incorporated into middle schools either through high tech electives or in tandem with the State prescribed math and science curriculum with the intent of fostering student interest in science and engineering. In spite of both approaches the ratio of science and engineering degrees awarded annually to the college aged population in the U.S. is less than in other countries. Furthermore, the number of underrepresented minorities earning those degrees is 12% according to the National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering, Inc.
Some K-12 programs focus on mutual concepts that appear in both engineering and the physical sciences (engineering science) rather than design and problem solving (engineering design). It is no coincidence then that middle school students do not know what engineers are or what they do in practice. Hence, they do not choose engineering as a possible career choice. While the former has its merits with regard to enriching math and science education for students, the later is necessary for a true understanding of engineering as a profession. Here we examine changes in ideas about engineering after receiving instruction using both approaches - a science curriculum with integrated engineering concepts and applications; and through an engineering design and technology curriculum. Similar trends were observed in both groups.
Specifically, we examine the responses from a 5th grade science class and both 6th and 8th grade robotics classes, who participated in the National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored GK-12 Program with Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. In each class, a doctoral candidate in an engineering discipline developed and delivered lessons and activities along with the teacher. Fellows were responsible for designing inquiry-based lessons to enhance the understanding of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts with the purpose of inspiring students to eventually pursue engineering disciplines. In the 5th grade class lessons and experiments were geared toward strengthening the understanding of the science curriculum, using engineering as a contextual vehicle for greater understanding. In the 6th and 8th grade class activities were based on engineering design with a focus on the physical sciences.
Both classes completed two surveys at the beginning and at the end of the 2008-2009 school year an open-ended survey about engineering and a closed-ended survey about attitudes toward math and science. Survey responses at the beginning of the school year revealed that overwhelmingly students defined identify specific tasks or problems solved by engineers or any of the technological tools that engineers use. Students did not personally know an engineer and could not identify more than one type of engineer. We present how the attitudes toward math, science and engineering changed over the course of the year between the two classes. We also discuss ways to design a better engineering curriculum at the middle school level based on our experiences.
Mitchell-Blackwood, J., & Figueroa, M., & Kokar, C., & Fontecchio, A., & Fromm, E. (2010, June), Tracking Middle School Perceptions Of Engineering During An Inquiry Based Engineering Science And Design Curriculum Paper presented at 2010 Annual Conference & Exposition, Louisville, Kentucky. 10.18260/1-2--15965
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