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Using Curriculum-Integrated Engineering Modules to Improve Understanding of Math and Science Content and STEM Attitudes in Middle Grade Students

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Engineering Across the K-12 Curriculum: Integration with the Arts, Social Studies, Sciences, and the Common Core

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.1325.1 - 24.1325.15



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Paper Authors


Jessica M. Harlan University of South Alabama

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Jessica M. Harlan is a PhD student in Instructional Design and Development at the University of South Alabama (USA). She is currently working with the USA evaluation team for the Engaging Youth through Engineering middle school engineering module program. Prior to her work at USA, Jessica was a training officer for the Office of Research at the University of California, Davis. She continues to work as an instructional design consultant for multiple UC campuses. Jessica also has a Master of Arts in Psychology with an emphasis in program evaluation from California State University, Stanislaus. She has taught undergraduate psychology online and in person for the Los Rios Community College District in Sacramento since 2008. Additionally, Jessica has provided program evaluation, program development, and instructional design services as a consultant for non-profit and local government agencies.

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Susan A. Pruet STEMWorks, LLC

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Dr. Susan Pruet has been actively involved in STEM education – as a teacher, teacher educator and director of reform initiatives for over 30 years. Since 1998 she has directed two STEM reform initiatives for the Mobile Area Education Foundation (MAEF): the Maysville Mathematics Initiative and, most recently, Engaging Youth through Engineering (EYE), a K-12 workforce development and STEM initiative in Mobile, Alabama. Both initiatives involve valuable partnerships with the Mobile County Public School System, the University of South Alabama, and area business and industry. Change the Equation, a non-partisan, CEO-led commission focused on mobilizing business communities to improve the quality of STEM learning in America, recognized the EYE Modules as one of Change the Equation’s STEMWorks Programs. Dr. Pruet currently serves on a number of education boards and committees including vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Alabama Mathematics, Science, Technology, and Engineering Coalition (AMSTEC), is a former member of the Executive Board of the American Society of Engineering Educators (ASEE) K-12 Division and past chair of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Instructional Issues Advisory Committee. Dr. Pruet received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Birmingham-Southern College, her master’s degree in secondary education from the University of Alabama in Birmingham, and her doctorate from Auburn University in mathematics education. Currently, Dr. Pruet provides professional development and consulting services related to STEM education with an emphasis on using engineering in support of K-12 mathematics and science through STEMWorks, LLC (

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James Van Haneghan University of South Alabama

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James Van Haneghan is Professor and Director of Assessment and Evaluation in the College of Education at the University of South Alabama where he teaches courses in research methods, assessment, and learning. He has research interests in the areas of program evaluation, problem- and project-based learning, mathematics education, motivation, and assessment. He has been at the University of South Alabama since 1995. Before that he held positions at Northern Illinois University and George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. His doctoral training was from the Applied Developmental Psychology Program at the University of Maryland. He also holds an MA in Experimental Psychology from S.U.N.Y at Geneseo, and a B.S. from Brockport where he majored in psychology and business administration.

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Melissa Divonne Dean Mobile Area Education Foundation

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Melissa Dean is a respected leader in STEM education based on engineering content in the Mobile, Alabama community. For the past few years she has served there as Assistant Director of the Engaging Youth through Engineering Program at the Mobile Area Education Foundation. In that capacity, she has coordinated the development of a series of STEM modules for middle school grades that truly integrate science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning in the classroom.
She is an experienced science educator having lead for years the development of informal curriculum and programs for the Science Centers in Alabama and Louisiana. She is highly experienced in curriculum development, writing, training and implementation. She has lead teacher development programs, as well as conducted pilot engineering design lessons in the classrooms. She works closely with STEM teachers in the 60,000 students Mobile County Public School System and has the reputation as a teacher leader and change agent. Her work with K-12 students, teachers and education administrators is gaining attention and respect nationally.
Melissa Dean received her bachelors of science from Louisiana State University in Shreveport and is currently working toward her graduate degree in Instructional Design and Development at the University of South Alabama in Mobile.

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Using Curriculum-Integrated Engineering Modules to Improve Understanding of Math and Science Content and STEM Attitudes in Middle Grade StudentsThe XXX Modules are being developed as part of a current DR K-12 award to meet acommunity’s 21st century workforce needs. The Modules have been designed to increase thenumber and diversity of middle grades students eager and able to pursue STEM careers and whochoose to take more high school mathematics and science courses in preparation for highdemand STEM-dependent jobs. The 8 XXX Modules are designed for grades 6, 7 and 8; eachrequires 6 to 8 hours of class time, involves collaboration of both mathematics and scienceclasses, and uses an engineering design challenge to engage students, bringing relevance andrigor to required mathematics and science content. The modules include a special emphasis onmathematics.The inquiry-based XXX Modules are written by a team of STEM professionals, includingsupport from engineers and engineering education professionals. The theoretical foundation ofthe XXX Modules is built on the four components of the “How People Learn” model [2, 3].General design principles guide the development of each XXX Module, e.g., learning outcomesand a driving question, coupled with Wiggins and McTighe’s “backwards design” process [4, 5].An engineering design challenge featuring industry and social issues of relevance to studentsprovides the unifying theme and “hook” for each module, highlighting the “why bother” oflearning of mathematics and science. Modules systematically develop team work andcommunication skills. The engineering design challenges involve technology, equipment andmaterials in the applications of mathematics and science content, promoting an integrated STEMcurriculum. [6]A longitudinal comparison study of the impact of the XXX Modules on students, teachers andthe school district will be completed in 2014. As students complete the set of XXX modules,data is showing evidence of XXX impacting multiple areas, including student learning,confidence, and achievement. Students show an increased ability to solve engineering problemsafter completing an XXX module. Self-report data from students show that XXX students havegreater confidence in their STEM skills and see greater value for having STEM skills in a futurecareer than students in a matched comparison school. Additionally, when asked on open-endedassessment items to identify skills and expertise a team would need to solve an engineeringproblem, XXX students are more likely than students in a matched comparison school to listspecific teaming skills. XXX also appears to be positively impacting standardized achievementtest data, especially among groups underrepresented in STEM.

Harlan, J. M., & Pruet, S. A., & Van Haneghan, J., & Dean, M. D. (2014, June), Using Curriculum-Integrated Engineering Modules to Improve Understanding of Math and Science Content and STEM Attitudes in Middle Grade Students Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--23258

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