RECOMMENDATION 3. The following research questions should be part of a wide-ranging research agenda in K–12 engineering education funded by the National Science Foundation, other federal agencies, and the private sector:

  • How do children come to understand (or misunderstand) core concepts and apply (or misapply) skills in engineering?

  • What are the most effective ways of introducing and sequencing engineering concepts and skills for learners at the elementary, middle, and high school levels?

  • What are the most important synergies in the learning and teaching of engineering and mathematics, science, technology, and other subjects?

  • What are the most important considerations in designing materials, programs, assessments, and educator professional development that engage all learners, including those historically underrepresented in engineering?

  • What are the best settings and strategies for enabling young people to understand engineering in schools, informal education institutions, and after-school programs?

Impact of Reforms

Although measuring the impact of reform efforts in K–12 education can be very difficult, the committee concluded that assessing the effects of the infusion and mapping approaches, core ideas, and guidelines for instructional materials will be essential for the development of K–12 engineering education in the United States over time. Data from these assessments will also provide a basis for evaluating the efficacy of continuing to pursue these and related efforts.

RECOMMENDATION 4. Federal agencies with an interest in improving STEM education should support a large-scale survey to establish a comprehensive picture of K–12 engineering education nationally and at the state level. The survey should encompass formal and informal education, including after-school initiatives; build on data collected in the recent National Academies report on K–12 engineering education; and be conducted by an experienced education research organization. The survey should be periodically repeated to measure changes in the quality, scale, and impact of K–12 engineering education, and it should specifically take into account how the practices of infusion and mapping, consensus on core ideas in engineering, and the development of guidelines for instructional materials have contributed to change.

A Final Word

Although the committee concluded that content standards for K–12 engineering education are not now warranted, our enthusiasm for the potential value of engineering education to our country’s young people and, ultimately, to the nation as a whole has not been diminished. For a country like the United States, which is largely dependent on technological development, we can think of few areas of education as critical as engineering to building an informed, literate citizenry; ensuring our quality of life; and addressing the serious challenges facing our country and the world.

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