Engineering is a small but growing part of K–12 education.1 Curricula that use the principles and practices of engineering are providing opportunities for elementary, middle, and high school students to design solutions to problems of immediate practical and societal importance. Professional development programs are showing teachers how to use engineering to engage students, to improve their learning of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), and to spark their interest in engineering careers. At its most ambitious, K–12 engineering education has the potential to foster much more integrated forms of STEM education by serving as a central organizing approach to teaching and learning.2
Teachers are at the forefront of engineering education’s expansion at the K–12 level. But, as has often been the case with K–12 education reform, many of the policies and practices that shape K–12 engineering education have not been fully or, in some cases, even marginally informed by the knowledge of teacher leaders.3 Policies too often are established at the school, district, state, and national levels with little or no input from classroom teachers. As a result, education policy and decision makers may miss promising opportunities to improve teaching and learning based on teachers’ experiences, insights, and “wisdom of practice,” all of which can complement findings from education research.
The lack of teacher engagement in policymaking in general may be attributable to a variety of factors. Teachers’ many job-related requirements during the school year can interfere with their ability to become familiar with and participate in policymaking processes. As generalists, elementary school teachers in particular, and to some extent those who teach in the middle grades, must focus on multiple subject areas, and the need to prepare for high-stakes tests can exert pressure on other activities.
The problem is exacerbated for education in engineering, because this is a subject about which most K–12 educators, administrators, and policymakers lack content or conceptual knowledge. Depending on whether engineering is viewed as a subject area in its own right or as concepts and skills to be integrated with other subjects (typically science or mathematics), teachers who provide instruction in other subjects at the middle and secondary levels may not have sufficient knowledge of engineering or its role in an integrated STEM curriculum to serve in a policymaking role. Engineering educators recognized these issues as early as 2004 when the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) established its precollege division to help teachers have a greater influence on education policy. However, much more needs to be done if teachers are to be appropriately represented in policymaking processes.
To address the lack of teacher leadership in engineering education policymaking and how it might be mitigated as engineering education becomes more widespread in K–12 education in the United States, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and
1 National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. (2009). Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects. L. Katehi, G. Pearson, and M. Feder, Editors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12635, accessed March 10, 2017.
2 National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council. (2014). STEM Integration in K–12 Education: Status, Prospects, and an Agenda for Research. M. Honey, G. Pearson, and H. Schweingruber, Editors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
3 National Research Council. (2014). Exploring Opportunities for STEM Teacher Leadership: Summary of a Convocation. S. Olson and J. Labov, Rapporteurs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18984, accessed March 10, 2017.
Medicine’s Teacher Advisory Council (TAC), in collaboration with the National Academy of Engineering (NAE), held a convocation in Washington, DC, on September 30–October 1, 2016, entitled “Enhancing Teachers’ Voices in Policymaking for K–12 Engineering Education.”4 The convocation was organized by an eight-member planning committee, approximately half of whom were working classroom teachers. The committee’s Statement of Task was as follows:
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Teacher Advisory Council along with the National Academy of Engineering will initiate a national dialogue on how K–12 teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can be more engaged in leadership roles to improve and expand the reach and quality of K–12 engineering education both within and outside of their classrooms and schools (e.g., contributing to the development of state-level standards and education policy). An ad hoc committee will plan a two-day, public, national convocation that will explore how strategic connections among these communities might catalyze new avenues of teacher preparation and professional development, integrated curriculum development, and more comprehensive assessment of knowledge, skills, and attitudes about engineering in the K–12 curriculum. The workshop will result in a rapporteur-authored summary that will be reviewed consistent with institutional procedures. There will also be follow-on outreach and communication with local, regional, and national stakeholders through direct conversations and the use of social media.
Supported by a grant from 100Kin105 and additional financial support from the Samueli Foundation,6 the convocation brought together more than 100 experts and teacher leaders in all aspects of K–12 engineering education. Through a web-based application process, those who wished to participate could apply to attend as individuals or as members of two- or three-person teams. More than 230 applications were submitted for about 95 available seats at the convocation. Each application was read and rated by two reviewers—members of the organizing committee, senior project staff, and volunteers from the Teacher Advisory Council—who used a rubric to standardize reviews.
In keeping with the theme of seeking and valuing teachers’ participation and input, nearly two-thirds of those invited to the convocation were classroom teachers. Because most teachers lack professional development funds to pay travel costs to the event, sponsor funding was used to cover these expenses for all teachers who requested support. The project also reimbursed the costs of substitute teachers if requested. To broaden outreach, plenary sessions were webcast live.7
In presentations, discussions, and breakout sessions (including “unconference” topics suggested before and during the first day of the convocation), participants explored how new avenues of teacher preparation and professional development, integrated curriculum development, and more comprehensive assessments could be shaped by
policies informed by teachers’ voices. Thanks to a collaboration with the Teaching Channel,8 convocation participants were invited to submit, before the convocation, short videos about their work in K–12 engineering education. The password-protected website allowed convocation participants to engage in virtual discussion with those who posted videos. All videos were made publicly accessible after the convocation.9
The agenda for the convocation is in Appendix A. Appendix B provides biographical sketches for the invited presenters and panelists as well as the organizing committee members. Appendix C lists the convocation participants and the 20 teams that took part.
The observations and suggestions in this proceedings are those of individuals at the convocation and should not be seen as the conclusions of the participants as a whole, the Teacher Advisory Council, or the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Rather, they are meant to lay out the issues surrounding teacher leadership and contributions to policymaking in K–12 engineering education as a basis for continued outreach and conversation with local, regional, and national stakeholders. Tailored summaries of the convocation (available separately) target teachers, administrators and policymakers, and researchers and college and university faculty members.10
Teachers are typically not policymakers, but they possess the knowledge and information from which effective policies are created, observed Donna Migdol, a STEM teacher and professional developer for the six elementary schools in Oceanside, New York, and cochair of the convocation planning committee. “We know how students learn. We know that the emotional, social, and intellectual well-being of our students is as important as their academic success. . . . We know that some policies can have opposite effects than what they were designed to have, and we often know why.” Teachers also have a deep understanding of the needs of students at different grade levels and in different contexts. One view is that “engineering merits stand-alone treatment as a distinct course of study at the K–12 level.” Another view is to have positive impacts on students, teachers, and schools, Migdol said, “teachers’ voices, and the students’ voices. . . must be heard.”
“We know how students learn. We know that the emotional, social, and intellectual well-being of our students is as important as their academic success. . . .We know that some policies can have opposite effects than what they were designed to have, and we often know why.”
Teacher leadership11 and policymaking are different in scope but deeply connected, Migdol continued. Teachers know about the effects of policy change in classrooms,
9 These videos are available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL33Z5ruVbWDJFt5vo_FFCtGt7_csYjYcP (accessed March 10, 2017).
10 These separate targeted summaries are available at http://nas.edu/K12_Teachers’_Voices_in_Engineering (accessed March 10, 2017).
11 The roles of teachers as leaders can be diverse and directed at various levels of the education system. For example, Table 4-5 in the 2015 report Science Teachers’ Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, Washington, DC: TheNational Academies Press, page 85) and accompanying text summarize the various roles that teacher leaders may assume. Additional research on teacher leadership is available in Schiavo, N., Miller, B., Busey, A., and King, K. (2010). Summary of
schools, and districts. For instance, some districts have policies that enable students to engage in systemic, sustainable STEM education throughout each grade, with teacher leaders providing professional development for other teachers. And some districts pool resources throughout a region to create exemplary models for state education departments as they consider policymaking.
Opinions differ on the best way to teach K–12 engineering, noted Norman Fortenberry, ASEE executive director and the other cochair of the planning committee. One view is that engineering merits stand-alone treatment as a distinct course of study at the K–12 level. Another calls for K–12 engineering to be used as an integrator of math and science that provides context, “because research shows that the kinds of thinking and processes in which engineers engage can improve student learning and achievement in math and science,” Fortenberry said. Finally, there is the view that engineering should be one component of a fully integrated STEM course of study “that does not distinguish among the elements but fuses them to craft tools for discovery, analysis, and innovation.” The expertise of teachers is particularly valuable in resolving differences and addressing many other issues in K–12 engineering education, Fortenberry said.
“Somebody who spends all day on their feet in a K–12 classroom has a lot of expertise. For instance, components of the No Child Left Behind Act would not have been written the way they were if teachers had been involved to a greater extent.”
With the active involvement of teacher leaders, engineering education has the potential to build bridges among content areas in K–12 education, said Laura Bottomley, teaching associate professor in the colleges of engineering and education, director of the Engineering Place and Women in Engineering at North Carolina State University, and a two-time recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring. K–12 education is typically more interdisciplinary than higher education (particularly in the lower grades and in project-based courses in high schools), which meshes well with the interdisciplinary nature of K–12 engineering education, she pointed out. For example, the 14 Grand Challenges for Engineering identified by the National Academy of Engineering are inherently interdisciplinary, requiring contributions from many different fields to enhance sustainability, health, security, and joy of living (Box 1-1).12 “Not a single one of those problems can be solved by an electrical engineer alone,” Bottomley said.
Because of its interdisciplinary nature, engineering is particularly well suited to boost student achievement and literacy in all STEM subjects. The ultimate goal of K–12 engineering education “is not to make engineers,” said Bottomley. “It is to make critical and creative thinkers regardless of what they’re going to become.” If some students become engineers, that is of course a “very big win,” but all students should be able to analyze problems and arrive at solutions, she said.
“We have to acknowledge [teachers’] expertise,” Bottomley observed, and “somebody who spends all day on their feet in a K–12 classroom has a lot of expertise.” For instance, components of the No Child Left Behind Act would not
Empirical Research on Teacher Leaders’ Instructional Support Practices. Prepared for the Math and Science Partnership Knowledge Management and Dissemination Project, Education Development Center, Washington, DC. Available at www.mspkmd.net/pdfs/blast05/3c2.pdf, accessed March 10, 2017.
have been written the way they were if teachers had been involved to a greater extent, she argued. “Somebody who is a practitioner might have been able to say, ‘Do you realize the unintended consequences that this is going to have at my school?’” The narrowing of education and teaching to the test that were a consequence of the legislation might never have occurred with greater teacher involvement, according to Bottomley.
Many other stakeholders in education also have expertise. To create meaningful education policies, diverse sources of expertise need to be acknowledged and combined, Bottomley said. “To me, that’s one of the greatest challenges in getting teachers’ voices, because, of all the [groups involved in education], teachers are the ones who are underestimated and undervalued perhaps the most.”
Teacher leaders can take on a variety of roles, including those through which they can exert an influence on education policy at levels ranging from the local to the national. They can work on curricula or other teaching materials, present at school board and other meetings, take on leadership roles in their schools, represent teachers outside schools, become involved in politics, engage in research experiences or fellowships and bring that new expertise back to their schools, and work with other organizations from local to national levels. They also can help other teachers recognize the value of influencing policy. After attending a NASA workshop in 2006, K. Renae Pullen, a K–6 science curriculum instructional specialist for Caddo Parish in Louisiana and member of the convocation’s organizing committee and TAC, said that she “started thinking about how, as a teacher leader, can I help my colleagues see the importance of leadership.” With their involvement in policymaking and teacher training, many of the presenters at the
convocation demonstrated the potential of teacher leaders to play important roles in policymaking.
“We couldn’t do it in silos, . . . we had to have engineers working with us.”
One form of leadership is work on new curricula, which generally requires working with others outside a school. Peggy Brookins, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards13 and cofounder of the Engineering and Manufacturing Institute of Technology at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida, described the development of the curriculum at this engineering magnet school, which was undertaken in partnership with major industries in the area. “We couldn’t do it in silos,” she said. “We had to have engineers working with us.” One of the first people the school hired was an engineer who taught computer-aided design (CAD) drafting, which led to all the institute’s students being CAD certified upon graduation. About a third of the institute’s students are women, and about a quarter are underrepresented minorities.
“How do we create something that’s different? We never asked them [simply] to see what everyone else saw. We were asking them to see what everyone saw but differently.”
An important goal at the school has been to build confidence. The school also has sought to teach its students to solve problems that will exist 10 and 20 years in the future. “How do we create something that’s different?” asked Brookins. “We never asked them [simply] to see what everyone else saw. We were asking them to see what everyone saw but differently.”
The teachers at the school have also sought to create an emotional attachment to learning. The school offers advanced placement (AP) courses in mathematics, the sciences, and language arts—”all those things that engineers [need] to know, but [the students] needed to know why they were learning the things that they were learning,” Brookins explained. The lessons are student centered, incorporating “their hopes, dreams, and aspirations.” After graduation, alumni go on to become professionals in every field of engineering and in many nonengineering fields. And many are still connected with each other because of the work they did together in school.
“Don’t wait for someone to ask. . . . You have to be involved, you have to be at the table. We always say that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
Taking on a leadership role requires training, Brookins continued. “We have to take the expectations that we have of students and raise those expectations, but we also have to raise the expectations that we have of ourselves.” Teachers may need quality professional development, time to collaborate or do an internship, or financial support to become a teacher leader. But taking such steps can change the “culture and climate within a school and what we’re able to do for students.”
For teachers to make their voices heard in policymaking, Brookins said, “don’t wait for someone to ask. . . . You have to be involved, you have to be at the table. We always say that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”
“My district can’t see me as anything but a classroom teacher or an administrator.”
Taking on leadership roles may require creating new roles for teachers. For example, Bruce Wellman, an engineering, chemistry, and robotics teacher at Olathe Northwest High School in Kansas and a member of the convocation’s organizing committee, expressed his desire for teachers to be able to function as researchers as well. “My district can’t see me as anything but a classroom classroom teacher or an administrator.” Moving beyond a traditional negotiated agreement, which has only one salary schedule for classroom teachers, would allow teachers to pursue different paths, including paths that generate policy-relevant knowledge.
Preparing teacher leaders can start early. Cheryl Farmer, director of Precollege Engineering Education Initiatives at the University of Texas at Austin, described the UTeach program, which originated at UT Austin and is designed “to turn the science teacher preparation model on its head.”14 Instead of preparing education majors to teach science and mathematics, UTeach provides science, mathematics, and engineering majors the opportunity to become K–12 teachers. It also puts these STEM students in the classroom from the very first semester of their training, often during their first year of college, providing them with hours of classroom exposure before they begin student teaching. Almost 90 percent of UTeach graduates go on to teach in STEM classrooms, and the five-year retention of UTeach graduates is 80 percent, compared with a national average of 65 percent, “because they know what they’re getting into,” said Farmer.
The UTeach model has been replicated in 44 institutions across the country, Farmer reported, and many have an engineering education component.15 UT Austin, for example, prepares some mathematics, physics, chemistry, and engineering majors to pursue the state’s secondary mathematics, physical science, and engineering teaching certification. The University of Colorado Boulder has created a CU Teach program with an engineering strand under the institution’s Engineering Plus program, which also includes a business strand and an arts and media strand.16 Similarly, the UTeach program at the University of Alabama, Birmingham, prepares engineering students to receive teaching certification.17
Graduate school can provide leadership development and result in policymaking roles. Jacob Foster, former director of science and technology/engineering at the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, did project-based curriculum development in graduate school and then worked for the state department of education. There he was involved in such varied activities as school accountability, professional development, grant writing, and state education standards—sometimes in the same week, he said. “It’s fast and furious and it really has everything and anything.” He also worked to integrate engineering into the traditional science disciplines in Massachusetts schools, which meant in part transitioning away from traditional shop classes to technology and engineering education.18 This was a protracted and at times
16 Information is available at http://www.colorado.edu/education/stem-education/cu-teach (accessed March 10, 2017).
18 For additional perspective on transitions from technology to engineering education, see National Academy of Engineering. (2009). Engineering in K–12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects. L. Katehi, G. Pearson, and M. Feder, Editors. Washington, DC: The
contentious process, he noted, but it worked to bridge the gap by emphasizing the need for an integrated approach, to show “how science and engineering and mathematics work together.”19
Foster called attention to two concerns that need to be addressed in K–12 engineering education. The first is the continued gender imbalance in technology and engineering education, among both students and their teachers. As Massachusetts has moved away from shop classes, it has had difficulty finding teachers, particularly women, to teach the newer classes. Similarly, underrepresentation of women has been a challenge for schools seeking to attract engineers from industry to teaching. Science and mathematics teachers who teach engineering tend to be men, he said, though this is changing as engineering becomes a more integrated subject. Foster called for certification requirements written to eliminate gender bias as engineering gains a greater place in the K–12 curriculum.
The second issue that Foster mentioned involves the parallels between K–12 engineering education and computer science. “The same kinds of conversations are going on right now, and [the two fields] are competing for the same kind of resources and time. How does engineering education relate to computer science?”
The next speaker directed attention to the different levels of the education system at which teacher leadership in policy can occur. At the school level, a teacher leader is someone who can push the envelope, said Michael Town, an AP engineering and environmental engineering teacher at Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Washington, and a member of the convocation’s organizing committee and the TAC. A respected teacher with knowledge of policy can lead a school to make institutional changes because of the credibility that teacher has achieved.
At the district level, teacher leaders can help disseminate engineering curriculum both vertically and horizontally throughout the district. At the state level, they can push for the acceptance of engineering education as a necessity rather than a luxury, and get involved in certification to ensure an adequate supply of engineering teachers. At the federal level, teacher leaders can work on budget issues and on implementation of legislative provisions through participation in teacher leadership initiatives, such as the Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship Program.20
After working for more than 20 years as a teacher Town was an Einstein Fellow with the National Science Board, which advises and helps set policy for the National Science Foundation.21 The program, which brings teachers to Washington, DC, for one and sometimes two years to work on STEM education policy in federal agencies or the US Congress, “was a great opportunity that enabled me to be a policy analyst and a researcher on any and all things STEM.” Since returning to Washington state to help design a new STEM-focused high school, his participation on the Teacher Advisory Council has allowed him to remain involved in a range of
National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12635, accessed March 10, 2017.
19 For additional information, see Foster, J. (2009). The Incorporation of Technology/Engineering Concepts into Academic Standards in Massachusetts: A Case Study. The Bridge 39(3): 25–31. Available at https://www.nae.edu/Publications/Bridge/16145/16207.aspx, accessed March 10, 2017.
21 Chapter 3 of the NRC report Exploring Opportunities for STEM Teacher Leadership: Summary of a Convocation (https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18984, accessed March 10, 2017) describes some of the models that involve teacher leaders in education policy and decision making.
policy issues.22 “Because I know the research, because I know the policy, because I’ve made the connections . . . I sit at a lot of tables now.”
Town noted, however, that there is often just one seat at the policymaking table for a teacher leader. “We need to increase the number of seats that are out there. People are usually looking for those teacher leaders, which provide opportunities for us to be in that policy arena.”
Beth McGrath, chief of staff in the office of the president and director of community and state relations at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, stressed that teachers can make a difference in policies by inviting parents, administrators, elected officials, and business leaders into their classrooms to show them what is possible and build support. “Your voice is amplified by virtue of their advocacy for the good work that you’re doing.”
Camsie McAdams, director of STEM curriculum for Discovery Education, reiterated the many ways teachers can influence policy at the local, state, and national levels. When she was a young teacher, she became involved in policy by “saying yes, showing up, and sticking around.” As an Einstein Fellow and senior advisor on STEM education at the US Department of Education, she has emphasized the importance of changing the conversation around engineering. In particular, she said, by highlighting the potential of engineering to solve societal problems and make a difference in the world, teachers and teacher leaders can attract many more students to the subject, including girls and underrepresented minority students.
Linda Abriola, a member of the National Academy of Engineering, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts University, and member of the convocation steering committee, noted that the development of teacher leaders and that of engineering leaders have many parallels. “Are there ways to bring the engineering faculty together with the faculty in the preservice area who are teaching teachers, because . . . we’re trying to develop similar skills. . . . We can have a big [impact] on how we do engineering in America.”
“Not everybody is going to be an engineer. It takes a unique mentality at times. But engineering education is something that everybody can have and can do.”
At the same time, Bob Friend, a steering committee member and chief engineer for space systems in the Boeing Phantom Works in Seal Beach, California, made the case for differentiating between engineering literacy for all and educating future engineers: “not everybody is going to be an engineer. It takes a unique mentality at times. But engineering education is something that everybody can have and can do.”
Finally, Jay Labov, senior advisor for education and communication for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, pointed to the importance of informal and afterschool communities, which can be powerful partners in STEM education.23 “We need to be thinking about how we become more inclusive so that they become partners in this,” he said.
22 Information about the TAC is available at http://sites.nationalacademies.org/dbasse/tac/index.htm (accessed March 10, 2017).
23 National Research Council. (2014). STEM Learning Is Everywhere: Summary of a Convocation on Building Learning Systems. S. Olson and J. Labov, Rapporteurs. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/18818, accessed March 10, 2017.
On both days of the convocation, participants met in subgroups to discuss possible actions to address the challenges and opportunities associated with teacher leadership in K–12 engineering education and policymaking. Representatives of the subgroups then reported the groups’ ideas in the next plenary session. Because the ideas presented below were generated in group discussions, they are not attributed to individuals, nor should they be seen as consensus statements of the breakout groups or of the convocation as a whole. They are presented as actions proposed by individual convocation participants that could have a substantive effect on the involvement of teacher leaders in policymaking.
Ideas that emerged during the breakout sessions are categorized here in five areas: identifying and sharing effective practices, networking and partnerships, teacher preparation and professional development, student assessment, and teacher certification. The breakout groups were also asked to derive possible metrics of success in each area.
Effective practices in K–12 engineering education are emerging as teachers develop and gain experience with curricula and as researchers examine approaches to teaching and learning that can in turn shape policies and practices. Teacher leaders could be particularly helpful in identifying and sharing these effective practices and in using them to help shape policies. The practices could be disseminated through a web-based hub with review, vetting, and differentiation mechanisms.
Teacher leaders could, for example, contribute to the development of standards for engineering education at different grade levels, drawing on their experience teaching engineering as a stand-alone subject and as a component of other STEM classes. In this way, they could help incorporate the subject into existing classes and strike a balance between engineering and other subjects, both within and across classes.
More broadly, administrators, university partners, organizations such as the National Academies, teachers’ professional societies, government agencies, private sector organizations, and accrediting bodies could work to a greater extent with teacher leaders to promote much more integrative approaches to engineering education. The NAE’s Grand Challenges for Engineering (see Box 1-1) is one option for organizing K–12 engineering education. Another innovative approach would be to add marketing and communications to invention and design as parts of engineering education, thus appealing to the interests of more students.
Elementary school teachers have expertise in combining different subjects into cohesive lessons, and children make up their minds very early about what they enjoy and think they do well. These points argue for involving these teachers extensively in policymaking for engineering education.
Teachers who work with English language learners and special education students also bring particular expertise based on innovations to reach their students. With mentoring and support, these teachers could bring their innovations to much broader groups of students who otherwise might not benefit from engineering education.
Administrators could be champions for their teacher leaders, creating environments for success by allowing teachers to raise concerns, ask questions, and come up with their own ideas. As one convocation participant put it, the goal could be “no teacher left behind.” If such inclusiveness is not part of a district’s administrative culture, principals and other administrators may need professional development to effectively support teachers in leadership and policymaking roles.
Research could support the development and work of teacher leaders, who could, together with other practitioners, help education researchers by providing critical feedback about the kinds of research that would be most helpful to them.24 In addition, engaging in action research could be a component of teacher leadership, as is the case in countries such as China25 and South Korea.26 Teacher leaders could also pioneer new roles for teachers that combine teaching with research or other activities, thereby helping teachers to develop expertise in fields outside teaching and enabling them to bring that expertise back into the classroom while remaining teachers.
One possibility suggested by a breakout group would be to rebrand K–12 engineering education, given that the word “engineering” may not be as appealing as other terms. This might be a way to attract more women and underrepresented minorities to engineering education, as both students and teachers.
Teacher leaders can also help ensure that diverse representatives of engineering are invited into classrooms to act as role models. Inviting people to talk about career opportunities and their experiences in engineering may take time away from instruction, but it can have a profound impact on students.
The success of identifying and sharing effective practices could be measured by whether information is available and policies are in place that can help teachers produce better teaching and learning. A further metric could be whether well-prepared teachers and teacher leaders know where to go for information and can readily access it.
Engineering teacher leaders have many options for forming partnerships with organizations to further engineering education and influence relevant policies. Companies, for example, may be willing to help with engineering education and with STEM education more broadly. Programs are available to pair teachers with partners who can help meet their needs. Some teachers at the convocation reported reaching out to individual students and their parents to help meet those needs, though this depends on the teacher, the school, and the circumstances.
STEM professional societies can be valuable resources and allies in forming partnerships, since many of them have a mission of supporting teachers, including helping teachers develop professionally as leaders.. For example, the ASEE holds
24 National Research Council. (2003). Strategic Education Research Partnership. M.S. Donovan, A.K. Wigdor, and C.E. Snow, Editors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10670, accessed March 10, 2017.
25 National Research Council. (2010). The Teacher Development Continuum in the United States and China: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/12874, accessed March 10, 2017.
26 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2015). Mathematics Curriculum, Teacher Professionalism, and Supporting Policies in Korea and the United States: Summary of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Available at https://www.nap.edu/catalog/21753, accessed March 10, 2017.
workshops for K–12 teachers, and other professional societies similarly offer subsidized workshops, teacher memberships, outreach programs, and other resources for teachers.27 Beyond professional societies, teacher leaders could organize collaborations among teachers, university researchers, administrators, and other experts.
Teacher leaders can help their colleagues, schools, and districts get access to the tools, knowledge, and resources they need to do much more extensive networking and be involved in policymaking. They can help differentiate between what is expected and what is needed, whether it is internships for students, a field trip to a company, or a one-time classroom visit. They can work with philanthropic and other organizations to increase the influence of and contributions by teachers to policy and decision making at the local, state, and national levels.
One possibility for this kind of networking would be an expanded matching process between available resources and teachers’ needs, based on the NAE’s LinkEngineering.org website. Such a resource could curate partners, stakeholders, resources, and teacher leaders in one place. Local voices, nonprofits, and universities could be leveraged, and existing platforms such as social media could be used to spread the message and demonstrate the mutual benefits to be gained.
The success of an enhanced networking and partnership effort could be measured by indicators such as the creation of a repository of resources and documentation of the activities of teachers (such as professional society membership or participation in policymaking bodies).
Teacher preparation and professional learning for teacher leaders could be greatly furthered by identifying characteristics of teacher leadership in engineering. This could be done through case studies of teachers with many different backgrounds and working circumstances. The American Association of Physics Teachers, for example, has established a Physics Master Teacher Leader Corps28 to provide guidelines and recommendations for enhancing the organization’s professional development programs for K–12 teachers of physics. A similar approach could be taken in engineering education, perhaps with leadership from a professional engineering society.
There are multiple pathways into K–12 engineering education. What might work for someone who was trained as an engineer and wants to become an educator may not be effective or even applicable for an elementary teacher who wants to incorporate engineering into her or his lessons, a middle school science teacher working to implement the Next Generation Science Standards, or a high school technology education teacher. Acknowledging the multiple pathways and entry points is critical to enabling successful career trajectories.
28 Additional information is available at http://www.aapt.org/aboutaapt/pressreleases/TaskforceMtg.cfm (accessed March 10, 2017).
Preservice education could develop future teachers’ identity as engineering educators. Such preparation could involve bringing policymakers into the classroom, defining teacher career arcs, engaging professional societies, avoiding the oversimplification of engineering, and requiring courses on engineering methods in all colleges and universities as part of K–5 teacher preservice programs. These changes could be part of a broader reorientation of undergraduate engineering education to highlight the importance and potential of careers in K–12 teaching. In particular, engineering and teacher preparation faculty members in colleges and universities could engage in much higher levels of collaboration to prepare K–12 engineering teachers.
Teacher leaders who specialize in engineering education could help design and deliver mentoring programs for new engineering teachers and for teachers making the transition from another subject to engineering. Collaboration between preservice and in-service teachers is important, as is exposing teacher educators in the preservice environments of higher education to engineering practice. Teacher leaders could also work with other teachers to build their confidence in teaching engineering, so that they recognize their own expertise and that of others.
Metrics for success related to preservice education could include the number of college and university programs (both undergraduate and graduate) that are preparing teacher leaders for K–12 engineering education, and the addition of a teacher education accreditation agency requirement to include material on teacher leadership. Additional metrics might be the production of teachers who are well enough prepared and confident enough to provide quality engineering education to their students, along with the accomplishments of the students these teachers have taught.
Professional Development for In-Service Teachers
For in-service teachers, professional development could be based on and tailored to their needs, taking account of their levels of experience in teaching and their familiarity with engineering concepts. Teacher leaders could take the lead in designing and delivering professional development and help provide quality control. Mentoring, coaching, and other forms of support could be embedded in professional development experiences.
A particular challenge will be helping teachers who have been active in education for many years develop the new skills and knowledge they will need to teach engineering. Professional development should therefore be ongoing rather than a onetime experience. The Teaching Channel or similar venues could be used to expose more teachers to professional development experiences and to amplify the voices of teachers.
Professional development should include opportunities to see students in action, for example, through a professional development laboratory. As learners, teachers can benefit by feeling what their students feel, including failures, lack of understanding, learning, and success. Teachers could receive professional development in the morning and deliver it to students with a master teacher present in the afternoon. Research on the impact of teacher leaders on students could help make the case for this approach.
Administrators could also be partners in professional development so they experience the learning that can help them support engineering education, with connections linking the local, district, state, and national levels.
Teaching centers could be a way to deliver professional development regionally and link it to policymaking.
Personalized professional learning could be continuous over time, offering teachers more autonomy than traditional professional development and providing them with
differentiated learning. In that respect, professional learning may be a better term than professional development.
Metrics related to professional development could include teacher retention, the numbers of teacher publications and presentations on engineering at professional conferences, and the size and distribution of networks of engineering educators in classrooms across the country. Additional metrics might include the number of people participating in professional development, the number of students receiving engineering education, the self-efficacy of students, and the self-efficacy of engineering education teachers.
Many questions are involved in developing an assessment system for engineering education. Would such a system be based at the district, state, or national level? Would it be product based or process based? What skills or knowledge would be assessed? How would it mesh with the Next Generation Science Standards or other standards? How would it be funded?
These and other questions could be considered by a panel of students, researchers, teachers, engineers, and other experts. The panel could gather information, digest it, and develop assessment material for field testing. One possible model for such testing could be teacher leaders who might be awarded a one-year position in which they field-test materials in a variety of school settings, working closely with the teachers and in collaboration with education researchers. Teachers could provide evidence to the panel as well as feedback about what the assessments are missing and what is needed. Another, innovative model would be a cooperative arrangement in which teachers help to develop and therefore own assessments of K–12 engineering education.
Potential metrics might include the number of students assessed and whether it yields useful information. Does the assessment produce discussion, collaboration, and teamwork? Does it provide information that can be disseminated in the scholarly literature? Does it enable the measurement of progress? Does it capture the messiness of assessment as students figure out ways to solve problems? How many teachers are using it and thus contributing to the resulting pool of information? And how many teachers are contributing to the assessment through participation on the assessment panel or in other ways?
Although national certification is a possibility, control of certification is currently at the state level. It might be useful to study different certification models across states.
An important distinction among states, for example, is whether certification is dictated by their legislatures using laws or through a state board of education using regulations, a difference that strongly influences how teacher leaders might be able to help shape certification. Another important distinction is the factors that contribute to licensure, such as how many courses need to be taken, what competencies have to be demonstrated, or what teaching practices need to be reviewed.
Teacher leaders could also help inform policy by working with teacher professional societies to develop what might be considered a model law or model regulation for engineering education certification. Such a model would allow teachers to advocate for particular outcomes in their state. In addition, teacher leaders could help bridge the divide between science education and engineering education—for example, by helping to define the certifications, endorsements, and other policy instruments that affect who is teaching a class.
Teacher leaders could act as resources for universities as they frame their preservice programs, enabling universities to facilitate conversations between teachers and the state. Given the importance of undergraduate education in shaping future teachers, it may be more appropriate to think of engineering education as a unified activity across K–16 (or K–20), rather than strictly a K–12 activity.
Participants noted that licensure could reflect different contexts. A teacher who is engaged only in engineering education may require an engineering education license, while a science teacher who includes engineering concepts and competencies might require a hybrid license. A career and technical education teacher might need a different kind of license, and what is needed at the K–5 level is quite different from what is needed for an upper-level elective in high school. In some cases, an integrated license may be most appropriate, especially with the field being relatively new. Integrated licenses could also help increase the supply of teachers for engineering education rather than requiring all such teachers to undergo a rigorous licensure process.
One need is for a better understanding of what engineering content knowledge teachers need for different grade bands. Content experts could work with grade-level experts to develop a framework or taxonomy for engineering education in different contexts. Microcredentialing could specify the content knowledge needed at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. Even within the K–5 grade band, what works for a kindergartener or first grade student may not work well for a fourth or fifth grader.
Measures of success related to credentialing for K–12 engineering include the numbers of reports on credentialing that exist and are being used, resources for teacher leaders that are available and being created, and the numbers of districts, states, and universities engaged in discussions of credentialing for K–12 engineering education.
A highlight of the convocation was the participation of 20 teams of educators, administrators, researchers, and other experts from schools, districts, and partnering institutions of higher education. In the final breakout session, these teams discussed and then reported in the plenary session actions that they could carry out to advance teacher roles in K–12 engineering education and policy in the school, district, or region where they work. The teams were asked to identify actions that could be done in the short term (six weeks), the medium term (six months), and the long term (a year or more). Participants not affiliated with a team were invited to participate in team discussions of their choosing to provide additional input and perspective.
The ideas generated by the teams were based on their own circumstances and so may not be widely applicable or comprehensive. Also, the teams were not asked to specify the organizational levels at which actions could be carried out. Nevertheless, the ideas generated and presented below can spur further thought, discussion, and action by those interested in promoting K–12 engineering education. The following list is meant to inspire educators, researchers, other education experts, and policymakers to consider what actions would be most effective at different levels in their own settings.
- Change the messaging associated with K–12 engineering education to attract more students, teachers, administrators, and policymakers to the subject and to increase the presence of teachers’ voices in shaping policy.
- Work with the Teaching Channel and similar organizations to create promotions that enhance K–12 engineering education and teachers’ voices.
- Identify potential partnerships that can be pursued locally, regionally, and nationally.
- Survey teachers to gauge their interest in engineering education and what they would need to teach the subject effectively.
- Engage teachers in networking opportunities through local and state teachers’ associations.
- Identify and recruit mentors and protégés for teaching engineering education at the K–12 level.
- Define what effective K–12 engineering education looks like at different grade levels and why it is important for all students.
- Connect national initiatives with local and regional resources, including colleges and universities, professional organizations, and businesses, to embed engineering in K–12 curricula at different organizational levels.
- Expand outreach to teachers who know little about engineering education, particularly K–5 teachers, through workshops and other means.
- Establish interdistrict educator advisory teams in STEM education to gather expertise from multiple districts, with representation by teachers and administrators from elementary, middle, and high schools.
- Identify and vet resources on K–12 engineering education and post them on websites for teachers while providing support for using and implementing the resources.
- Develop an interactive web activity in engineering education so that teachers can become involved in the subject no matter where they are. Such a website could identify the locations of the teachers who are involved to encourage in-person meetings.
- Create partnerships with the National Academy of Engineering, Society of Women Engineers, American Society of Civil Engineers, Association of Environmental Engineering and Science Professors, and other organizations at the national and state level to promote and support K–12 engineering education and policies related to its implementation, support, and sustainability.
- Organize presentations on K–12 engineering education at meetings of the National Science Teachers Association.
- Work with career and technical education teachers to facilitate their teaching of engineering, beginning with teachers who are already teaching across curricular subjects.
- Increase gender and minority representation of students in engineering classrooms through teacher professional development that incorporates material on implicit bias and self-efficacy.
- Identify best practices based on consistent pedagogical principles across districts, grades, and subject matter areas and gauge whether those practices are being implemented.
- Establish norms for engineering teachers regarding collaboration, teamwork, and decision making based on data and networking with other teachers and programs.
- Provide teachers with professional development opportunities through regionally supported teacher development institutes and programs.
- Establish a professional development paradigm in which a facilitator works one-on-one with teachers in grades 4–6 to assist with the development of concepts and pedagogical skills for engineering education. These facilitators can pull back over time as teachers are better able to act autonomously.
- Develop alternative pathways through colleges of engineering for future teachers while working with the state to rewrite requirements for certification.
- Create a regional network of teams of two teachers and an administrator to conduct a day of professional development, after which they would work with their schools, districts, regions, and states to shape policies related to engineering education.
- Obtain funding to tailor professional development for guidance counselors and high school, middle school, and K–5 teachers.
- Use videos of engineering education to analyze, through partnerships with university researchers, changes in practice and learning among teachers and students.
- Explore an integrated program of dramatic inquiry in which elements of theater and dance encourage underrepresented groups to become involved in engineering education.
- Create vertical alignment from elementary through middle and high school through the Grand Challenges for Engineering.
- Incorporate engineering and computer science in an integrated physics course, using physics master teachers to connect with national organizations and available resources.29
- Draw on alumni of Teach for America, whether they are still teaching or are in other careers, to help increase the diversity of students studying engineering, invest in the professional development of teachers, and develop partnerships to both integrate engineering pedagogy and practice into classrooms and advocate for change at a systemic level.
Throughout the convocation, members of the organizing committee urged participants to think about how the ideas discussed could lead to sustained action. “We’re at the proof-of-concept stage at this convocation, which will help everyone envision what
might be possible and take expanded ideas about teacher leadership and policymaking in engineering education back to the organizations and environments in which they will continue to work,” said organizing committee cochair Donna Migdol. “How can the precious experience of teachers, as we watch our own students and other teachers burst with ideas on how to change the world, partner with policymakers and broaden our scope as policymakers to create sustainable, systemic policy change at the highest levels?”
Cochair Norman Fortenberry emphasized the need to “continue the conversation and see what we can develop” even as he urged the convocation participants to convert their words into deeds. “You can’t just sit there. You have to be ready to go. [Let’s] see how much we can build on this [convocation].”