Understanding the beliefs and perceptions of teachers who choose to implement engineering-based science instruction.
- At the end of a four-year research program on engineering-based science instruction in elementary school, we found greater gains in science content knowledge by students using engineering-design based curriculum than by their peers using their districts' standard science curricula (Authors, 2010), and evidence for the development of students' engineering-design and modeling practices (Authors, in ... read morepress) But in order for universities and schools to design K-12engineering programs for maximum impact and benefit, it is helpful to understand what characteristics of a research program make it worthwhile from the participating teachers' perspective. Therefore, we collected data on the characteristics of the teachers who applied tour program, and on the aspects of the curriculum and professional development that were beneficial from the practicing teachers' viewpoint. Thirty-one teachers from our study were asked to take part in a survey and formal focus group on their perceptions of the curriculum. These instruments, along with applications and surveys collected at the inception of the program, provided us with the data to answer the following questions: - What kinds of teachers applied to pilot an engineering-based elementary science curriculum? - What materials, techniques, and curriculum approaches introduced in the training and intervention were deemed most important by the teachers? - How do the teachers think their practice of teaching science in the classroom was changed by their participation in the program, and what differences in student learning do they think occurred as a result? - How likely are the teachers to continue the intervention after the professional development and institutional support are no longer available? In previous studies we have focused on student learning (Authors, 2009; 2010); the study we present here is unique because of its focus on our engineering education research program from the teachers' perspectives, allowing them to judge what was useful and impactful, and giving the researchers insight into the characteristics of teachers and curricula which make an intervention successful and enduring. We found that teachers identified suggestions for improvement and affordances of our curriculum following three themes: the activities and tools used by the curriculum, the content and skills learned from the curriculum, and the perceptions of student performance after participating in the curriculum. Our volunteer teachers were shown to be self-efficacious in their science teaching beliefs (Wenner, 2001), although somewhat less so in their teaching outcome expectancy beliefs (Riggs & Enochs, 1990) Also, teachers seemed to hold beliefs about the benefits of constructivist teaching methods (Levitt, 2002) before participating in the research project, which may encourage their continued use of the experimental curriculum after the program's cessation. This paper will discuss the implications of the teachers' characteristics and perceptions for recruitment of future participants for engineering-based curriculum interventions, and the importance of self-efficacy in professional development for elementary educators. In addition, it examines the degree to which experimental curricula are sustainable after the formal research program is completed, and suggests directions for future research on the changes in teacher characteristics and perceptions over time.read less
- Kendall, A. L. M., & Wendell, K. B. (2012, June), Understanding the Beliefs and Perceptions of Teachers Who Choose to Implement Engineering-based Science Instruction Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. https://peer.asee.org/22152. © 2012 American Society for Engineering Education.