increased by stronger connections to technological literacy, as described in such documents as the Standards for Technological Literacy: Content for the Study of Technology (ITEA, 2000).

Professional Development Programs

Finding 9. As reflected in the near absence of pre-service education as well as the small number of teachers who have experienced in-service professional development, teacher preparation for K–12 engineering is far less developed than for other STEM subjects.


Nearly all teacher in-service initiatives for K–12 engineering education are associated with a few curriculum projects. Many of these professional development initiatives lack one or more of the characteristics known to lead to teacher learning, such as professional development that lasts for a week or longer, ongoing in-classroom or online support following formal training, and opportunities for continuing education. No active pre-service initiatives seem likely to contribute significantly to the supply of qualified engineering teachers in the near future. Indeed, the qualifications for an engineering educator at the K–12 level have not even been defined. Thus, although graduates of a handful of teacher-preparation programs have strong backgrounds in STEM subjects, including engineering, few if any of them appear to end up teaching K–12 engineering classes.

The reader should keep in mind the important differences between elementary and secondary schools and between teachers in these two branches of the K–12 education system. At the elementary level, separate courses for individual subjects and teachers with special credentials, for example, a licensed “engineering teacher,” are very rare. At the secondary level, teacher specialization is more common. Thus approaches to professional development vary depending on grade level.

According to input from the workshops and public comments on the committee’s project summary report, many K–12 teachers are unfamiliar with engineering, do not have content knowledge in science, and have relatively little preparation for teaching mathematics. All of these factors are certain to make in-service professional development for engineering education less effective. Furthermore, no accepted model for professional development for K–12 engineering has yet been developed. However, based on research in other domains, such as mathematics and science, we can get a good idea of successful approaches to preparing teachers in engineering.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement