In interviews, many curriculum developers stated that teaching engineering knowledge and skills was not their primary objective. Their reasons for including engineering content included reversing poor test scores in mathematics and science, engaging students in more scientific inquiry, and showing students that mathematics has practical applications.
Several developers deliberately passed up opportunities to address engineering concepts and skills to focus on other problems or opportunities. Some explained that their projects were required to include enough science content to be considered part of science education, and that too much emphasis on engineering design, constraints, modeling, optimization, and technological systems could tip the scale toward engineering. They had to maintain a delicate balance, they said, with a modest bias toward science, to improve the chances that their materials would be accepted and implemented. Other developers said their materials were required to have enough mathematics content to be approved for elective credit in mathematics. Finally, some noted that in the current No Child Left Behind climate of accountability for student achievement in core subjects, there isn’t much room for engineering content in the school curriculum.
Another factor that had to be taken into consideration was the comfort level (sometimes the discomfort level) of elementary, science, and mathematics teachers. Elementary teachers, for example, must have a deep understanding of child development coupled with skills in teaching reading, writing, and mathematics, but teaching about engineering is largely uncharted territory. Consequently, in several curricula, materials were configured to capitalize on teachers’ strengths and teaching responsibilities by introducing engineering in conjunction with language arts, social science, and natural science instruction.
At the secondary level, many teachers are specialists with teaching assignments based on their training in a given discipline. Because engineering is often outside their areas of expertise, teaching engineering concepts and skills would require learning new content to implement new lessons, learning activities, and assessment methods.
The curriculum materials reviewed for this study range in maturity from more than 20 years old to just off the press, and they range in sophistication from units of instruction that can be downloaded from the Internet at no cost to programs featuring courses of study that span multiple grade levels