Engaging Teachers in Engineering and Science Curriculum Development

1. Focus

K-12 engineering education remains a lead topic of reform and discussion in STEM education. As many as forty-one states include engineering in their academic state standards (Carr, Bennett, & Strobel, 2012) and with the recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013), schools and teachers are faced with the challenge of integrating engineering design into the existing science curriculum while resources to do so remain somewhat limited (Roehrig, Moore, Wang, & Park, 2012). The focus of the workshop is to present models and strategies for integrating science engineering with the existing science curriculum. Although engineering design curriula exist, most of the curricula comprise replacement units, rather than strategies for teaching the existing science curriculum and developing engineering design activities that align with the science content that teachers are required to teach. In addition, advocates of more integrated approaches to K–12 STEM education argue that teaching STEM in a more connected manner, especially in the context of real-world issues, can make STEM subjects more relevant to students and teachers (NEA/NRC, 2014). This in turn can enhance motivation for learning and improve student interest, achievement, and persistence, particularly among “populations that have historically struggled in STEM classes and that are historically underrepresented in STEM programs in higher education and STEM professions” (NEA/NRC, 2014, p. 4).

This workshop builds on our work with engaging K-12 teachers in engineering curriculum design. Rather than replacing the existing science curriculum with previously developed, stand-alone engineering units, the teacher teams integrate engineering design into the existing science curriculum. This approach builds on the notion of authentic science inquiry, which engages students in doing science in the ways that scientists would (Rivera Maulucci, Brown, Gray, Sullivan, 2014). With authentic science inquiry, students ask their own questions, develop methods to test their hypotheses, gather and analyze data, and present their findings. In the process, authentic science inquiry projects provide “a greater sense of academic agency, afford students opportunities to gain expertise,… have the potential to challenge students’ understandings of science, enhance how they see themselves in relationship to science and improve their achievement in science” (Rivera Maulucci, Brown, Gray, Sullivan, 2014, p.1119). In a similar way, engineering design challenges position students as engineers who must engage in the engineering design process to solve a particular problem. Problem-based learning poses real-world, ill-structured, open-ended opportunities for students to define the problem, identify goals, and develop solutions to address the problem (Jonassen, 1997; Prince & Felder, 2006; Ertmer et al., 2009). Problem-based learning has been shown to foster student engagement, motivation, intellectual growth, and the ability to transfer knowledge and skills to other problem situations (Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009).

As part of a teacher education/professional development seminar taught by the lead presenters, preservice and inservice teachers explore the NGSS standards for engineering, experience engineering design challenges, learn about The Claims-Evidence-Reasoning (CER) Framework (Zembal-Saul, McNeill, & Herschberger, 2013), and receive training in implementing a family engineering night. Teacher teams then develop science/engineering units that integrate engineering design challenges (Carr and Stroebel, 2011) and incorporate the CER Framework. In addition, the preservice/inservice teacher teams plan and implement family engineering nights featuring activities that also align with the science curriculum. We presented a paper, Integrating Engineering Design with the Existing Curriculum: Balancing Structure, Agency, and Authenticity, at ASTE last year, which was well attended. The paper focused on some of the research outcomes, but we fielded many questions about the professional development model. This workshop will fill that gap by delving into more of the details of the professional development model and sharing more classroom examples across the K-12 grade span. ASTE members will benefit from the practical strategies and tips we will model and learn about the different approaches teachers take to integrating engineering with science from the classroom examples. They also have the opportunity to develop concrete plans for implementing some of the approaches we will share in their own teaching or research project contexts.

2. Workshop Outline

I. Introductions (10 minutes): We will quickly introduce ourselves, have the participants introduce themselves, and review the agenda for the workshop.

II: The Professional Development Context: (10 minutes): We will provide an overview of the professional development model. The purpose is for participants to see how we approach positioning teachers as engineering curriculum developers, the steps in their learning, and some of the outcomes.

III. Engineering Design Challenge: (40 minutes): Participants will have a choice of two engineering design challenges to complete: bridge building and designing a water filtration device. They will work in teams through the entire engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve. The facilitators will briefly present the science curriculum in which such activities might be embedded and then participants will begin to work on the challenge. The purpose will be to ensure that all participants are familiar with the engineering design process and to explore the rich connections that can be made to the existing science curriculum.

IV. Debriefing the Engineering Challenges: (20 minutes): We will debrief the engineering challenges focusing on their use in the classroom.

V. Classroom Examples: (25 minutes): We will split the presenters and participants into three groups: Elementary, Middle, and High School that will move to three corners in the room. In each group, the presenter will share 2-3 different classroom examples of how teachers at their grade span integrated engineering design with the existing science curriculum. The presenters will have laptops, mini-projectors and screens and will give presentations that include images and video of the classroom-based engineering design units. The presentations will describe the typical science unit and how teachers re-designed the units to incorporate engineering design, as well as teacher reflections on the strengths and weaknesses of their units, what they might do differently next time, and their impressions of student engagement and learning. Participants will have the opportunity to ask questions and share their experiences with integrating engineering. We will close with why we think this approach is beneficial and important for teachers and students.

VI. Developing Action Plans: (15 minutes): Participants will be encouraged to develop action plans that build on what they have learned. During this time, the facilitators will circulate, answer questions, and share suggestions and ideas. The last five minutes will be a wrap-around report of what the participants hope to do next.

VII. Assessment: (5 minutes): We will hand out workshop evaluations for participants to complete.

3. Learning Objectives:

Participants will be able to:

1) Engage in an engineering design challenge and develop an understanding of the engineering design process.
2) Learn about the components of our professional development model, what components we include, how they work together, and how we sequence the learning experiences.
3) Explore classroom-based examples of engineering design units developed by preservice/inservice teacher teams
4) Develop action plans for building on what they have learned in their own work.

4. Availability Post-Conference:

We will collect e-mails of all the conference participants and send links to a google drive with copies of all the handouts and powerpoint presentations. We will share our e-mails and respond to any further requests for information post-conference.

5. Member Interest:

This workshop will be of interest to ASTE members who are designing and/or researching teacher education or professional development experiences to assist the integration of science and engineering. Practitioners would also benefit from the workshop because they can learn about the engineering design process and the classroom examples would help them think about how they might design their own engineering units.

6. Expertise of the Presenters:

The first presenter is the Chair of the Education Program with a Ph.D. from Teachers College in Science Education. She has 16 years of middle school math, science, and technology teaching experience, five years of science professional development experience, and 12 years of science teacher education experience. She designed and co-taught the course in 2014. The second presenter has a Ph.D. in Science Education from Teachers College. She also has several years of college science teaching experience and professional consulting. She is currently a science coach in a New York City public school. She co-taught the course in 2014 and has been the instructor since then. The third presenter is a doctoral student at Teachers College. She is working with us on the ongoing research related to this professional development model and presented our paper at ASTE last year.

7. Budget and Needs

We will not need to charge any fees for participation as all the materials will be provided by the grant that is funding the project. This workshop can accommodate 30 participants. If possible, we will need three projectors set up in the room, with small screens for the simultaneous presentation of classroom examples, but if this is not possible, we can bring our own. We will also need tables for the participants to work on their engineering design challenges. Since one of our presenters is a practitioner, we would like to schedule the workshop on Saturday, if possible.