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Utilizing an Engineering Design-Based Research Approach to Study and Strengthen a Teacher Preparation Program in STEM at the Secondary Level (Work in Progress)

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Pre-College Engineering Education Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Katherine C. Chen Worcester Polytechnic Institute

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Dr. Katherine C. Chen is the Executive Director of the STEM Education Center at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI). Her degrees in Materials Science and Engineering are from Michigan State University and MIT. Her research interests include pre-college engineering education, teacher education, and equity in education.

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Shari Weaver Worcester Polytechnic Institute


Gretchen Fougere STEM Leadership Advisors

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Dr. Gretchen Fougere is an inventor, technology leader, and educator. Her broad, interdisciplinary training prepared her well to have a successful career in industry-based technology development as well as education. Dr. Fougere has spent her career engaging people of all backgrounds to understand how engineering and design can enhance their lives. A significant fraction of her effort has focused on expanding STEM reach and impact through partners in industry, universities, and nonprofit entities. Her firm, STEM Leadership Advisors, is proud to have collaborated with WPI for this NSF-funded project and she also serves as Vice Chair of the Science Club for Girls.

Dr. Fougere has had dual careers in education and technology development. In education, she is the Engineering director of research alliances for Northeastern University’s Roux Institute. The Roux Institute is creating an innovation hub in Portland, ME, based on applied research and graduate education. Dr. Fougere works across NU to create teams of faculty who partner with corporate and nonprofit organizations to fulfill strategic needs. Previously, she was the inaugural Associate Dean of Outreach and Diversity in the College of Engineering at Boston University. Over the 6+ years, she launched and spearheaded a nationally-impactful initiative called the Technology Innovation Scholars Program, where a cadre of highly-trained engineering undergraduates engaged secondary students in hands-on engineering challenges, reaching over 17,600 students. She partnered with funders, such as AT&T, NASA, Accenture, Genzyme, and the National Science Foundation, and created inquiry-based STEM programs that inspired and challenged diverse students with a variety of learning styles, often in underrepresented and underserved communities. The Massachusetts high tech community recognized Fougere as a Mass Tech Woman to Watch and Carnegie Corporation/100kin10 appointed her as one of 20 national Fellow. She advised the Society of Women Engineers and Graduate Women in Engineering and Science. She actively collaborated with the Engineering and Education Faculty at BU and beyond and secured over $25M in grant funding. Additionally, she was a senior leader at The Possible Project, and at the ground-breaking Engineering is Elementary (EiE) program at the Museum of Science where she worked on partnerships, curricula and professional development.

Dr. Fougere also has a decade of technical and managerial experience in technology innovation. Her industrial experience includes leading a 20+ person, advanced Research and Development organization at Duracell and developing technical products and new business in high tech (Motorola) and aerospace (Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Engines) sectors. She received her Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering in the field of Nanotechnology from Northwestern University and was elected to Sigma Xi. Her research was conducted at the Argonne and Oak Ridge National Laboratories. She received bachelor’s degrees in Biomedical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering from Vanderbilt University. She holds three US patents.

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A study was conducted to examine the barriers of the Teacher Preparation Program (TPP) students at X University from entering the classroom as science, engineering, or math teachers after graduation. The project aims to better understand the experiences and thought processes of the pre-service teachers to improve recruitment strategies to grow and diversify potential teacher candidates, while also strengthening the program in order to better prepare the teacher candidates (TC) to teach in high-need schools. An engineering design-based research (DBR) approach was taken to investigate two research questions: • Do TPP teacher candidates have unmet needs and where do they have barriers preventing them from becoming secondary STEM teachers? • How do the local secondary schools, teachers, and hiring managers assess the TPP teacher candidates and graduates, and what specifically is required for their high-need schools? The design-based research involved understanding “users” who are experiencing the Teacher Preparation Program system such that the system can be improved to better meet their needs. Users in this system are the teacher candidates, and the set of users working in the TPP system as supervising practitioners/mentor teachers, program supervisors, and hiring managers. A mixed method (i.e., quantitative and qualitative) approach was used. Surveys were administered to students attending TPP info sessions and to students currently in the Teacher Preparation Program. Factors affecting interest and decisions about teaching included family influences/support, teaching-related experiences, internships, financial aid, etc. Additionally, an external consultant led interviews with the TPP students, mentor teachers, and hiring managers (as part of an NSF Noyce Capacity Building grant).

By redesigning the Teacher Preparation Program system with information from what users are saying and showing as their need, rather than what the project team and organization hypothesizes or desires, not only will the system work better for those who are experiencing it, but the changes will be sustainable and necessary. This is analogous to a product development team listening to customers (the users) and redesigning the product or service for them instead of solely incorporating new features and the technical aspects of the product. By using human-centered design tools to engage users from the teacher candidate pool and from the local secondary education agencies in a deep and thoughtful way, not only will there be a better system but the relationships with these users will be more authentic and lasting, and result in true partnerships. By bringing users into the redesign and making their voices and needs an integral part of what aspects are kept and what aspects are modified, the system becomes more robust for preparing great teachers for pre-college learners. We ultimately seek to increase and diversify our teacher candidate pool and to build strong partnerships with local, high-need schools that are ready to supervise, mentor, and hire our teacher candidates and graduates for their STEM classrooms. Preliminary findings and recommendations for interventions will be shared and may be useful for other STEM teacher preparation programs.

Chen, K. C., & Weaver, S., & Fougere, G. (2021, July), Utilizing an Engineering Design-Based Research Approach to Study and Strengthen a Teacher Preparation Program in STEM at the Secondary Level (Work in Progress) Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference. 10.18260/1-2--38007

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