Informal and after-school education organizations
Once a consensus has been reached, the core ideas will be useful in a variety of ways. First, they will provide a foundation and direction for the infusion and mapping approaches described in Chapter 3. The consistency and authority of both approaches will be reinforced by having agreed engineering ideas and practices to draw upon. One important use of the core ideas might be to inform the engineering portions of the expected new standards for K–12 science education to be developed by Achieve, Inc. in 2011. Another might be to strengthen the engineering content in the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s Standards for Technological Literacy, if and when they undergo revision.
Second, the core ideas will be a resource for improving existing or creating new curricula, conducting teacher professional development, designing assessments, and informing education research.
Third, although the committee’s focus was on questions related to the development and implementation of standards for the K–12 classroom, we recognize that there are also many opportunities for young people—and adults—to learn about engineering outside the formal school setting. Indeed, student involvement in out-of-school learning environments may equal in-class exposure for some subjects, such as science (Chi et al., 2008). Core ideas will provide guidance for people who work in informal education settings, such as museums, and after-school programs.
Part of the committee’s charge was to consider how, or whether, standards for engineering education in K–12 would differ depending on whether the overall purpose is to support the goal of general literacy (the “mainline”) or to target a narrower group of students who are interested in pursuing careers in engineering (the “pipeline”). The committee believes that the identification of core ideas in engineering will be beneficial for both purposes.
Ultimately, curriculum developers, providers of professional development, and others with an engineering-pipeline orientation may build on the foundation provided by core ideas by emphasizing connections between engineering and mathematics and science, especially physics. Educators with a mainline focus may use core ideas to develop resources for traditional science, mathematics, and technology education classes or informal or after-school programs.
The value of core ideas will be greatly enhanced for all purposes if they are embedded in “guidelines” for the development of instructional materials (cf., Rutherford, 2009). The purpose of the guidelines would be to improve the quality of engineering education materials, accelerate their development, and increase the number of individuals and groups that can use them, without developing actual standards.
Guidelines would necessarily include the core ideas in engineering, but they would also address other considerations, which we know from research and practice are important to ensuring the quality of instructional materials (Box 4-1). In other words, guidelines would not include all of the characteristics of effective educational curricula; they would include only the characteristics for which we have some basis in experience and understanding. The guidelines should be revised and improved as our knowledge grows and improves.