National Academies Press: OpenBook

Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education (2020)

Chapter: 7 Conclusions and Recommendations

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Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
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Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
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Page 158
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
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Page 159
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
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Page 160
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
×
Page 161
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
×
Page 162
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
×
Page 163
Suggested Citation:"7 Conclusions and Recommendations." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25612.
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Page 164

Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS 7 Conclusions and Recommendations This report details changes in the US education system that are intended to integrate engineering in the K–12 curriculum, and it considers the implications of those changes for the teacher workforce. Although it is not possible to say with certainty how many elementary and secondary teachers currently are providing their students with experience and engagement with engineering concepts and practices, moving forward it seems highly likely that more K–12 educators will need some level of engineering literacy and engineering-related pedagogical knowledge. In addition, the different goals for K–12 engineering education suggest different levels and types of preparation for many K–12 teachers of engineering. (As a reminder, the committee is using the term “teacher of engineering” to refer to any elementary or subject-matter secondary teacher who spends some portion of the school day providing engineering instruction.) The engineering education research field has established, high-level standards for programs that provide professional development for K–12 teachers of engineering. Beyond this general guidance, however, we know little about the factors most likely to lead to the effective preparation of such teachers. In addition, there are relatively few opportunities, especially at the preservice level, for K–12 educators to develop the knowledge and skills needed to teach engineering, which raises questions about the capacity of the US education system to meet the potential demand for K–12 teachers of engineering. Furthermore, there is a lack of research on the impacts of different kinds of preparation for K–12 teachers of engineering, in terms of student outcomes, to gauge the effectiveness and merits of various approaches and programs. Addressing the capacity concern, in turn, highlights the roles and importance of elements of the larger education system. This chapter presents the committee’s conclusions and recommendations and is based on the data and analysis in the rest of the report. The chapter is intentionally brief, discussing only the most critical issues and opportunities. The order of its four sections, which address context, preparation, systems factors, and research, is not intended to suggest prioritization of any suggestions over others. Every recommendation calls for action by one or more stakeholders, all of whom have roles to play in helping strengthen the preparation of K–12 teachers of engineering. CONTEXT FOR THE PREPARATION OF K–12 TEACHERS OF ENGINEERING Many factors are contributing to an expanded focus on engineering in K–12 STEM education in the United States. These include widespread calls for a STEM-literate workforce; concerns about the country’s international competitiveness; the growing presence of K–12 STEM curricula that incorporate engineering concepts and practices; and the availability and adoption by states of K– 12 standards with engineering learning goals for students. 157

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS CONCLUSION: Current circumstances provide incentives and opportunities to increase both the number and competence of K–12 teachers of engineering in the United States. The incentives and opportunities arise not only from a generally favorable policy environment, including widely adopted engineering-containing standards, but also from the potential availability of new, rewarding career options for individuals able to teach engineering at the K–12 level. Federal efforts to determine the size of the workforce of K–12 teachers of engineering are hindered by shortcomings in a key survey instrument, the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS). As discussed in chapter 4, one of three engineering-related “main teaching assignments” in the survey (“Construction trades, engineering, or science technologies [including computer- aided design and drafting]”) includes engineering but also other subjects, which could result in an overestimate of the size of the workforce. At the same time, other aspects of the survey might lead to an underestimate of the workforce. For instance, because the instrument discourages educators from selecting subjects that are not their main assignment, those who teach one or more engineering classes but whose main assignment is in a different subject may not consider themselves to be teachers of engineering. The survey is also unlikely to count secondary science teachers who are introducing their students to engineering design projects in keeping with the Framework for K–12 Science Education and Next Generation Science Standards, as well as elementary teachers who tend to be subject-matter generalists. Given the nascent state of K–12 engineering education in the United States, the vast majority of teachers of engineering are likely to be teaching engineering less than full-time. This population likely is not captured by NTPS, so the survey data may reflect a significant underestimate of K–12 educators teaching at least some engineering. CONCLUSION: Limitations in available data and definitional confusion about what constitutes a K–12 teacher of engineering make it difficult to estimate how many such individuals are currently working in the United States. RECOMMENDATION 1: To better understand the extent to which US K–12 educators are teaching engineering, the National Center for Education Statistics should revise the National Teacher and Principal Survey so that (1) answer choices for items that query respondents about teaching assignments and certification do not combine engineering with other fields, and (2) respondents can indicate whether they are engaged in teaching engineering less than full-time or as other than a main teaching assignment (e.g., as part of a science course). Data reviewed by the committee suggest that there are very few preservice programs preparing K–12 teachers of engineering (or science educators who are knowledgeable enough about engineering to successfully introduce it to their students). As spelled out in chapter 4, one source of teachers of engineering is the teacher preparation programs in technology education. However, not all of these programs engage their students in engineering coursework, and the number of graduates is small and has been declining for at least the last two decades. Other preservice programs, such as the UTeach initiative, produce a very small number of graduates with engineering degrees, and nearly all of those graduates end up teaching science or mathematics, not engineering. The committee could find no reliable information about the extent 158

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS to which science teacher education programs engage their students in engineering content, practices, and pedagogy. Based on our own expertise and knowledge in this area, however, we conclude that very few such programs incorporate engineering in a meaningful way. CONCLUSION: Despite the challenges associated with determining the size of the K–12 engineering educator workforce, evidence points to a likely current and growing mismatch between the need for engineering-literate K–12 educators and the capacity of the US education system to prepare and support these professionals. RECOMMENDATON 2: To begin to address the systemic lack of capacity to prepare preservice K–12 teachers of engineering, federal agencies, such as the Department of Education and National Science Foundation, and private foundations with an interest in STEM education, should convene a collaborative dialogue among K–12 STEM educators, leaders at organizations involved in the preparation of K–12 STEM educators, colleges of education, colleges of engineering and engineering technology, postsecondary science departments, K–12 teacher accrediting bodies, state departments of education, and technology-focused industry. The goal should be to identify practicable steps that the stakeholders and others can take to address the capacity issue. CONCLUSION: Independent of the overall number of educators, federal and other data suggest that the current composition of the current K–12 engineering educator workforce is heavily weighted toward white males. This pattern mirrors longstanding gender and racial imbalances in the field of technology education, currently one of the main sources of new K– 12 teachers of engineering, as well as in postsecondary engineering and engineering technology education. A more diverse workforce of K–12 teachers of engineering that is encouraged to use inclusive pedagogies could help attract and retain a more diverse population of students interested in the study of engineering and in STEM-related careers. RECOMMENDATION 3: Programs that prepare prospective teachers of engineering need to make greater efforts to recruit and retain teacher candidates from populations currently underrepresented in STEM education and careers. Likewise, professional development programs should proactively encourage the participation of teachers with these characteristics. Programs for both prospective and practicing teachers should explicitly include instruction on the use of inclusive pedagogies. PREPARING K–12 TEACHERS OF ENGINEERING The goals of K–12 engineering education vary, and this variation has implications for the preparation of educators. A basic understanding of engineering—engineering literacy—is important for all K–12 teachers of engineering and should include both subject-matter knowledge as well as engineering-specific pedagogical content knowledge. A subset of K–12 teachers of engineering will need to have greater familiarity with engineering concepts and practices as well as more extensive knowledge of relevant science and mathematics in order to serve students who require deeper learning experiences in engineering in order to pursue certain college or career goals. 159

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS CONCLUSION: Educators aiming to support student acquisition of engineering literacy do not need to have a degree in engineering. However, current and prospective K–12 teachers of engineering do need appropriate levels of experience and engagement with engineering concepts, practices, and pedagogy. The amount of experience and engagement will vary according to grade band, with teachers at the secondary level generally requiring more than those working in elementary classrooms. CONCLUSION: K–12 teachers of engineering should be able to support students in the acquisition of important engineering concepts, skills, and habits of mind. The Standards for Preparation and Professional Development for Teachers of Engineering provide a useful starting point for meeting the professional learning needs of these educators. State standards for teacher education and for assessment related to certification, some of which are discussed in chapter 5, may provide additional guidance to those involved in the preparation of K–12 teachers of engineering. RECOMMENDATION 4: In the short term, both providers of professional development opportunities and educators of prospective K–12 teachers of engineering should align their work with guidance documents that draw on the most up to date understanding of research and best practices in teacher education and professional development. As new knowledge accumulates about the professional learning of K–12 teachers of engineering, adjustments in programs should reflect new insights gained from rigorous, high quality scholarship. RECOMMENDATION 5: As evidence accumulates about effective approaches for preparing K–12 teachers of engineering, it will be important to establish formal accreditation guidelines for K–12 engineering educator preparation programs, such as those developed by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. The National Science Teaching Association, International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, and American Society for Engineering Education should work together to determine the appropriate content for such guidelines. Such an effort should take account of new NGSS-aligned accreditation standards for science teacher education programs, which become effective in 2020 and include student learning expectations related to engineering. It should also consider how the guidance needs to vary based on the grade level to be taught. CONCLUSION: The inclusion of engineering-related learning expectations for students in the Framework for K–12 Science Education and NGSS will require a considerable shift in science teachers’ instructional practices. Successful implementation of these changes will require significant support for science teachers’ professional learning and sufficient time and resources for multiple cycles of iteration, reflection, and improvement. RECOMMENDATION 6: Programs that prepare preservice K–12 science educators or provide professional learning to in-service science teachers need to address the call in the Framework and NGSS for students to connect their science learning to engineering ideas and practices. To this end, the Association for Science Teacher Education, National Science Teaching Association, and American Society for Engineering 160

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS Education should work together to assist these programs in identifying and implementing actions that will fulfill the engineering components of the new vision for K–12 science education. KEY INFLUENCES ON THE SYSTEM Increasing the number, skill level, and confidence of K–12 teachers of engineering in the United States is a complex challenge that will require attending to multiple elements of the education system. Two components of the system are of special significance in the context of teacher professional learning: postsecondary institutions and state departments of education. Given the extent of the changes required, the need to coordinate across multiple components of the education system, and that system’s current limited capacity to prepare K–12 teachers of engineering, meaningful improvements in the availability and quality of teacher learning opportunities should be expected to occur incrementally over many years, a decade or more. CONCLUSION: Postsecondary engineering and engineering technology programs are a potentially important but underutilized resource for helping build a sufficiently large and competent workforce of K–12 teachers of engineering. These institutions could provide K–12 educators with the disciplinary expertise and habits of mind that they will need to be effective instructors and role models to K–12 students. One potential starting point might be the small group of universities that have established schools or departments of engineering education. Some of these programs already conduct research on K–12 engineering education, and many graduate PhD students with deep knowledge of effective pedagogy. The engineering schools that have agreed in principle to provide credit for a high-school engineering course may also have motivation to help prepare K–12 teachers of engineering. Because few engineering or ET programs have expertise in K–12 pedagogy, it will be important that these institutions engage colleges of education or other sources of pedagogical expertise in their efforts. RECOMMENDATION 7: Postsecondary engineering and engineering technology programs should partner with schools/colleges of education to design and implement curriculum for the preparation of K–12 teachers of engineering. Such efforts should be conducted in consultation with teacher professional organizations that have a stake in K–12 engineering, such as the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association and National Science Teaching Association, as well as the American Society for Engineering Education. CONCLUSION: The committee’s research revealed considerable variability in the types of engineering-related credentialing states offer. There is also variation within and across states regarding (1) what knowledge and skills teachers in these fields must master to be credentialed, (2) to what degree work experience may substitute for academic coursework, and (3) what subjects those with credentials can teach. RECOMMENDATION 8: States should work together to reach high-level agreement about what constitutes appropriate preparation and credentialing for teachers of engineering at various grade levels and what education and work-related pathways 161

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS satisfy the credential process. The Council of Chief State School Officers should organize such discussions, in consultation with appropriate science and engineering professional societies and test development organizations. CONCLUSION: Many types of organizations with a stake in the US education system provide expertise, funding, and other supports to improve the accessibility and quality of K– 12 STEM education. It is not always clear, however, that these well-intentioned efforts are informed by evidence from research or the wisdom of practice, or that these organizations are effectively leveraging the potential for partnership with the entities they are trying to assist. RECOMMENDATION 9: Federal agencies, higher education institutions, state education agencies, industry, informal learning institutions, cultural and community organizations, and other stakeholders in the preparation of K–12 teachers of engineering should work in partnership with the schools and educators targeted by the interventions. When possible, such partnerships should leverage the expertise of teacher leaders in K–12 engineering education. Investments by these stakeholders should be allocated and used in ways that are consistent with findings from education, social science, and learning sciences research as well as relevant policy documents. DIRECTIONS FOR RESEARCH As this report makes abundantly clear, the evidence base that might inform effective approaches to preparing K–12 teachers of engineering is thin and uneven. This situation is due to the relative newness of engineering education in the K–12 landscape as well as the challenges inherent to conducting high-quality research in education. The committee was struck by the fact that the promising expansion of engineering instruction across the K–12 grades presents a significant opportunity to learn from the experiences of those who designed these initiatives as well as the teachers spearheading them. Research we describe, for example, demonstrates clearly that teachers learn a great deal about student ideas and the potential of various instructional approaches and materials as they experiment with implementing engineering in their classrooms. CONCLUSION: Given the nascent nature of K–12 engineering education and the relatively small amount of active research on teacher professional learning in this domain, the use of designed-based research methods may be particularly appropriate. Design-based research (DBR) and design-based implementation research (DBIR) methods, which are used for studying complex problem solving with multiple stakeholders, are highly iterative, nimble, and adaptive. Teacher design research, which employs a teacher-as-researcher model and investigates complex instructional tasks, such as teaching with engineering design activities, might also be a useful approach. CONCLUSION: There is no shortage of important issues that researchers in education and the social sciences might tackle. If anything, the challenge will be to decide where to focus attention and resources in order to have the greatest impact on the capabilities of K–12 teachers of engineering. 162

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS RECOMMENDATION 10: Federal agencies, such as the National Science Foundation and Department of Education, with a role in supporting K–12 STEM education, should fund research on topics relevant to the professional development of practicing and the education of prospective K–12 teachers of engineering. To the extent practicable, the efforts should take advantage of methods, such as design research, that encourage collaboration with stakeholders and existing reform efforts. Pressing issues include:   Describe the subject-matter content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge required for high-quality K–12 engineering education and how this knowledge varies across grade levels;   Describe pedagogical approaches and specific instructional practices that effectively support students’ integration of engineering with concepts and practices from the other STEM subjects;   Document student learning progressions, age-appropriate expectations for engineering design thinking, and student conceptions in engineering, all of which have implications for how K–12 educators at different grade levels are prepared and supported; and    Develop valid measures of teacher knowledge and instruction, as well as of student outcomes, that can be used to judge the effects of K–12 engineering educator preparation and professional learning programs.   Characterize the current cadre of educators of K–12 teachers of engineering and their learning needs.  FINAL THOUGHTS The statement of task charged the committee with examining issues related to the preparation of K–12 teachers of engineering, a new, evolving, and important segment of the US STEM education workforce. As we hope this report makes clear, there is considerable potential value in engaging K–12 students in the concepts, practices, and habits of mind of engineering. Ideally, teachers who provide that engagement, whether from a foundation of engineering, technology education, science, or some other subject, should be engineering literate. They should also have the pedagogical content knowledge to guide students through the challenges and rewards of using the engineering design process and in the appropriate application of concepts and practices from science and mathematics. Findings from high-quality research in education should inform the professional learning of these educators. For reasons both historical and structural, the current situation is far from this ideal. As our report points out, there are almost no postsecondary programs educating prospective K–12 teachers of engineering, and state mechanisms for recognizing prospective teachers’ engineering knowledge, where they exist, vary widely. There are a number of K–12 engineering professional learning initiatives in the United States, some of which have reached considerable scale. Most of these efforts are small, however, and not grounded in evidence from research. In short, there are few professional pathways for those hoping to become K–12 teachers of engineering. If this report can do one thing, we hope it will be to alert constituencies with a stake in US STEM education to the mismatch between the need for engineering-literate K–12 teachers and the education system’s lack of capacity to meet this need. The situation is far from hopeless, but 163

PREPUBLICATION COPY, UNCORRECTED PROOFS meaningful improvement will require action on multiple fronts, as this chapter proposes. The potential benefits for students and the nation are significant. 164

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Engineering education is emerging as an important component of US K-12 education. Across the country, students in classrooms and after- and out-of-school programs are participating in hands-on, problem-focused learning activities using the engineering design process. These experiences can be engaging; support learning in other areas, such as science and mathematics; and provide a window into the important role of engineering in society. As the landscape of K-12 engineering education continues to grow and evolve, educators, administrators, and policy makers should consider the capacity of the US education system to meet current and anticipated needs for K-12 teachers of engineering.

Building Capacity for Teaching Engineering in K-12 Education reviews existing curricula and programs as well as related research to understand current and anticipated future needs for engineering-literate K-12 educators in the United States and determine how these needs might be addressed. Key topics in this report include the preparation of K-12 engineering educators, professional pathways for K-12 engineering educators, and the role of higher education in preparing engineering educators. This report proposes steps that stakeholders - including professional development providers, postsecondary preservice education programs, postsecondary engineering and engineering technology programs, formal and informal educator credentialing organizations, and the education and learning sciences research communities - might take to increase the number, skill level, and confidence of K-12 teachers of engineering in the United States.

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