CAREER: Community-Based Engineering as a Learning and Teaching Strategy for Pre-service Urban Elementary Teachers

This is a Faculty Early Career Development project aimed at developing, implementing, and assessing a model that introduces novice elementary school teachers (grades 1-6) to community-based engineering design as a strategy for teaching and learning in urban schools. Reflective of the new Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012), the model addresses key crosscutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas, and scientific and engineering practices.

Award Number: 
1623910
Funding Period: 
Wednesday, May 15, 2013 to Monday, April 30, 2018
Full Description: 

This is a Faculty Early Career Development project aimed at developing, implementing, and assessing a model that introduces novice elementary school teachers (grades 1-6) to community-based engineering design as a strategy for teaching and learning in urban schools. Reflective of the new Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC, 2012), the model addresses key crosscutting concepts (e.g., cause and effect: mechanism and explanation), disciplinary core ideas (e.g., engineering design, and links among engineering and society), and scientific and engineering practices (e.g., identifying a problem, and designing solutions for technology-related problems in local school or community environments). It builds on theoretical perspectives and empirical foundations, including situated learning, engineering design cognition,and children's resources and funds of knowledge, including cultural and linguistic diversity. The study integrates research and education plans that investigate the short-term impact of the model on 90 novice teachers' learning through their pre-service coursework and practice teaching, and its longer-term impact on a subset of 48 of those teachers as they begin their first year of in-service teaching.

The study employs a design-based research that addresses three phases: (a) a development phase to create a community-based engineering module and assessment instruments; (b) an iterative implementation phase that includes three cycles of community-based engineering experiences with three cohorts of novice teachers; and (c) a synthesis phase focused on generating cumulative findings and recommendations. Its hypothesis is that incorporating community-based engineering into elementary teacher education will enhance novice urban elementary teachers' engineering design competency, understanding of engineering and scientific practices, and ability to identify and respond to student ideas and practices in science and engineering. This hypothesis guides four research questions: (1) How do novice urban elementary teachers' engineering design abilities evolve during community-based engineering experiences?; (2) How do the teachers' understandings of engineering and scientific practices evolve during community-based engineering experiences?; (3) How do the teachers' engineering abilities and understandings of engineering and scientific practices impact how they identify and respond to students' science and engineering ideas and practices?; and (4) Does participating in extended professional development on community-based engineering impact the teachers' (a) understandings of engineering and scientific practices, (b) abilities to identify and respond to student thinking, or (c) incorporation of science/engineering lessons into their first two years of teaching? The research plan articulates a descriptive thread and an experimental thread. The descriptive research thread addresses the first three research questions, inclusive of three constructs: (a) novice urban elementary teachers' engineering design abilities, (b) their understandings of practices of science and engineering, and (c) their abilities to identify and respond to students' ideas and practices. The experimental research thread addresses the fourth research question, which assesses the impact of community-based engineering professional development on two of the constructs (b and c mentioned above), as well as on the frequency and characteristics of the science-engineering lessons that new teachers will implement with their students in their first two years of teaching. Data gathering strategies include the use of valid and reliable instruments, such as the Creative Engineering Design Assessment, a curriculum critique and revision task, and a video-case-based assessment. Data analysis include both quantitative and qualitative methods.

Expected outcomes are: (1) a research-informed and field-tested strategy to incorporate community-based engineering into elementary teacher education and elementary grades science classrooms, (2) samples of modules demonstrating this strategy, and (3) a digital guide on incorporating community-based engineering experiences into elementary science teacher education programs, particulalrly in underserved urban areas.

Formerly award # 1253344.