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?

Step 4:
Measure the Impact of Reforms

The committee is aware how difficult it can be to measure the impact of reform efforts in K–12 education. Even when quality evaluations are conducted, it can be very hard to determine which educational interventions are most effective (e.g., DOEd, 2007). Despite these challenges, however, the committee concludes that in the case of standards infusion and mapping, core ideas, and guidelines for instructional materials development, it will be very important to assess how these efforts affect the development of K–12 engineering education in the United States over time. It will also be important to compare reforms in this country with efforts in other countries to introduce engineering to precollege students. Such data will provide a basis on which to either modify or discontinue one or more of these 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 recommended practices of infusion and mapping, consensus on core ideas in engineering, and the development of guidelines for instructional materials have contributed to change. An effort should be made to compare the survey data with impact data from other countries’ efforts to introduce engineering to precollege students.

The committee suggests that measurable “indicators,” such as those proposed in Box 4-2, be developed to guide the research.

The survey data, combined with new findings from research on how K–12 engineering education is affecting student learning and interest in STEM disciplines, should be used to reassess the need for content standards for K–12 engineering education, modification of the

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