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Understanding the Beliefs and Perceptions of Teachers Who Choose to Implement Engineering-based Science Instruction

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

K-12 Teachers: PD, Implementation, and Beyond

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.1395.1 - 25.1395.20



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Paper Authors


Amber Leigh McFarland Kendall Tufts University

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Amber Kendall is a doctoral student in science education at Tufts University and a Graduate Research Assistant with the Center for Engineering Education and Outreach. She graduated from North Carolina State University as a Park Scholar with a B.A. in physics. Her passion for STEM education is long-standing, but she was inspired to pursue her graduate degree after three years spent teaching physics to high-school freshman. Beside engineering-design-based curricula, her interests include scientific representations and modeling, and women in science and engineering.

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Kristen Bethke Wendell Ph.D. University of Massachusetts, Boston

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Understanding the characteristics and perceptions of teachers who choose to implement engineering-based science instructionAt the end of a four-year research program on engineering-based science instruction inelementary school, we found greater gains in science content knowledge by students usingengineering-design based curriculum than by their peers using their districts' standard sciencecurricula (Authors, 2010), and evidence for the development of students’ engineering-design andmodeling practices (Authors, in press). But in order for universities and schools to design K-12engineering programs for maximum impact and benefit, it is helpful to understand whatcharacteristics of a research program make it worthwhile from the participating teachers’perspective. Therefore, we collected data on the characteristics of the teachers who applied toour program, and on the aspects of the curriculum and professional development that werebeneficial from the practicing teachers’ viewpoint. Thirty-one teachers from our study wereasked to take part in a survey and formal focus group on their perceptions of the curriculum.These instruments, along with applications and surveys collected at the inception of the program,provided us with the data to answer the following questions: - What kinds of teachers applied to pilot an engineering-based elementary science curriculum? - What materials, techniques, and curriculum approaches introduced in the training and intervention were deemed most important by the teachers? - How do the teachers think their practice of teaching science in the classroom was changed by their participation in the program, and what differences in student learning do they think occurred as a result? - How likely are the teachers to continue the intervention after the professional development and institutional support are no longer available? In previous studies we have focused on student learning (Authors, 2009; 2010); the study wepresent here is unique because of its focus on our engineering education research program fromthe teachers' perspectives, allowing them to judge what was useful and impactful, and giving theresearchers insight into the characteristics of teachers and curricula which make an interventionsuccessful and enduring. We found that teachers identified suggestions for improvement andaffordances of our curriculum following three themes: the activities and tools used by thecurriculum, the content and skills learned from the curriculum, and the perceptions of studentperformance after participating in the curriculum. Our volunteer teachers were shown to be self-efficacious in their science teaching beliefs (Wenner, 2001), although somewhat less so in theirteaching outcome expectancy beliefs (Riggs & Enochs, 1990). Also, teachers seemed to holdbeliefs about the benefits of constructivist teaching methods (Levitt, 2002) before participating inthe research project, which may encourage their continued use of the experimental curriculumafter the program’s cessation. This paper will discuss the implications of the teachers’characteristics and perceptions for recruitment of future participants for engineering-basedcurriculum interventions, and the importance of self-efficacy in professional development forelementary educators. In addition, it examines the degree to which experimental curricula aresustainable after the formal research program is completed, and suggests directions for futureresearch on the changes in teacher characteristics and perceptions over time. ReferencesAuthors. (2009).Authors. (2010).Authors. (In press).Levitt, K. E. (2002). An analysis of elementary teachers' beliefs regarding the teaching and learning of science. Science Education, 86(1), 1-22.Riggs, I. M., & Enochs, L. G. (1990). Toward the development of an elementary teacher's science teaching efficacy belief instrument. Science Education, 74(6), 625-637.Wenner, G. (2001). Science and mathematics efficacy beliefs held by practicing and prospective teachers: A 5-year perspective. Journal of Science Education and Technology, 10(2), 181-187.

Kendall, A. L. M., & Wendell, K. B. (2012, June), Understanding the Beliefs and Perceptions of Teachers Who Choose to Implement Engineering-based Science Instruction Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--22152

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