Asee peer logo

Undergraduate Engineers and Teachers: Can Students Be Both?

Download Paper |


2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

August 28, 2016





Conference Session

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering Division: Research-to-Practice: Principles of K-12 Engineering Education and Practice

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education Division

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Malinda S. Zarske University of Colorado - Boulder

visit author page

Malinda Zarske is a faculty member with the Engineering Plus program at the University of Colorado Boulder. A former high school and middle school science and math teacher, she has advanced degrees in teaching secondary science from the Johns Hopkins University and in civil engineering from CU-Boulder. Malinda teaches undergraduate product design courses through Engineering Plus as well as STEM education courses for pre-service teachers through CU Teach Engineering. Additionally, she mentors graduate and undergraduate engineering Fellows who teach in local K-12 classrooms through the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program’s TEAMS initiative, is on the development team for the TeachEngineering digital library, and is faculty advisor for CU-Boulder's Society of Women Engineers (SWE). Her primary research interests include the impacts of project-based service-learning on student identity, pathways and retention to and through K-12 and undergraduate engineering, teacher education and curriculum development.

visit author page


Maia Lisa Vadeen University of Colorado - Boulder

visit author page

Maia Vadeen is a Discovery Learning Apprentice at the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She is currently a junior in Engineering Plus, emphasizing in environmental engineering and concurrently pursuing secondary math teacher licensure through CU Teach Engineering. Her research interest is in the area of student identity and pathways for engaging and retaining students into engineering. Her DLA research apprenticeship allowed her to investigate the CU Teach Engineering program, including analyzing data and leading focus groups. She is also in the GoldShirt Engineering Program, Engineering Honors Program, a Resident Advisor on campus, and an active member of the Christian sorority Alpha Delta Chi. Maia is passionate about K-12 engineering and helping youngsters achieve their dreams.

visit author page


Janet Y. Tsai University of Colorado - Boulder Orcid 16x16

visit author page

Janet Y. Tsai is a researcher and adjunct professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado Boulder. Her research focuses on ways to encourage more students, especially women and those from nontraditional demographic groups, to pursue interests in the field of engineering. Janet assists in recruitment and retention efforts locally, nationally, and internationally, hoping to broaden the image of engineering, science, and technology to include new forms of communication and problem solving for emerging grand challenges. A second vein of Janet's research seeks to identify the social and cultural impacts of technological choices made by engineers in the process of designing and creating new devices and systems. Her work considers the intentional and unintentional consequences of durable structures, products, architectures, and standards in engineering education, to pinpoint areas for transformative change.

visit author page


Jacquelyn F. Sullivan Ph.D. University of Colorado - Boulder

visit author page

Jacquelyn Sullivan is an educational entrepreneur, founding co-director of the General Engineering Plus degree program in the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science. She recently spearheaded creation of CU Teach Engineering - a pathway to secondary STEM teacher licensure through Engineering Plus, a design-based, multidisciplinary engineering degree. Sullivan was conferred as an ASEE Fellow in 2011 and was awarded NAE’s 2008 Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education.

visit author page


Denise W. Carlson University of Colorado - Boulder

visit author page

Carlson is involved with a broad range of program implementation initiatives through the Integrated Teaching and Learning Program at the University of Colorado Boulder’s College of Engineering and Applied Science, including the TeachEngineering Digital Library. She holds a BA in economics from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. She serves as a contributing author and editor of many publications, proposals, presentations and curricula.

visit author page

Download Paper |


Today’s college-aged students are graduating into a world that relies on multidisciplinary talents to succeed. Engineering college majors are more likely to find jobs after college that are outside of STEM fields, including jobs in healthcare, management and social services [1]. A survey of engineering undergraduate students at a large public university in November 2012 indicated a desire by students to simultaneously pursue secondary teacher licensure alongside their engineering degrees: 25% “agreed” or “strongly agreed” that they “would be interested in earning grades 7-12 science or math teaching licenses while [they] earn [their] engineering degrees. As colleges of engineering education, how can we support the success of our students in these multidisciplinary fields post-graduation, including teaching?

The College of Engineering and Applied Science in partnership with the School of Education, has developed an innovative program that results in graduates attaining a secondary school STEM teacher license concurrently with an engineering BS degree. This streamlined pathway through engineering educates and prepares a workforce of secondary teachers capable of high-level teaching in multiple STEM subjects—either engineering coupled with science (biology, chemistry and physics), or engineering coupled with mathematics. These engineers are motivated and inspired to pursue two career routes because they find value and passion for both professions. One study showed that successful mathematics and science teachers “would have liked to be engineers [2].” Teachers expressed that being comfortable and understanding engineering phenomena is a barrier to why they initially did not pursue an engineering career. We are fostering students that develop both an engineering mindset alongside a commitment to giving back through secondary teaching in this program.

This research aims to discover if and how students in the engineering + teaching program identify themselves as both an engineering student and as a teaching student. We are exploring why students decided to pursue engineering and teaching and how they plan to use engineering, teaching, or both in their futures. It is important to also understand how we attract students to this program. Given the diverse student experience inherent in this degree program built around passion and desire to combine engineering and teaching, the paper addresses the questions, “How do you think your engineering background will influence the way you teach?” and “How can we connect the work/identity of engineering to the work/identity as a science or math teacher?” and “How do we advertise and motivate engineering students to explore future teaching pathways?”

Initial survey and focus group data collected this past academic year indicates that students in this degree program identify as both an engineer and a teacher. Using mixed-methods analysis informed by current education research - including quantitative and qualitative survey questions and small focus groups - we explore the ways in which students discovered this program and how they plan to incorporate the two disciplines in their future. We are interested in how engineering students will incorporate the knowledge that they learned in engineering classes into the lesson plans they design for secondary classroom students.

1. U.S. Census Bureau. (2012), American Community Survey, Where do college graduates work? A Special Focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Retrieved from

2. Lottero-Perdue, P. S. (2013, June), Elementary Teacher as Teacher of Engineering: Identities in Concert and Conflict. Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference, Atlanta, Georgia.

Zarske, M. S., & Vadeen, M. L., & Tsai, J. Y., & Sullivan, J. F., & Carlson, D. W. (2016, June), Undergraduate Engineers and Teachers: Can Students Be Both? Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.27092

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2016 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015