Document Type

Conference Paper

Journal/Book Title/Conference

ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition






American Society for Engineering Education

Publication Date



Background: Several of the recent reform efforts in K-12 STEM education (e.g. Next Generation Science Standards [NGSS and Common Core State Standards-Mathematics [CCSS-M]) have included significant emphasis on the practices of STEM. We argue that K-12 teachers' ability to effectively engage their students in these core STEM practices is fundamental to the success of potential and current engineering students and their subsequent careers as engineers. Practices such as identifying problems, modeling using mathematics, and arguing from evidence are fundamental processes in engineering. Helping students develop their capacity to engage in these practices early in their education will increase the likelihood of the students applying the practices and developing skills aligned with the work of engineers. We contend that engaging in the practices associated with engineering may increase K-12 student interest and the successful pursuit of engineering as a career because they will find relevance in what is being taught and gain knowledge of the applications of STEM content which will help them develop talents aligned with the work of engineers. Project: In recognition of the importance of being able to apply the practices of science and engineering (NGSS) and the practices of mathematics (CCSS-M) to be successful as an engineer (or a STEM professional), we emphasized the of importance and value of core STEM practices as part of i-STEM-our week-long intensive, statewide STEM professional development (PD) summer institute program for over 500 K-12 educators. During i-STEM, the K-12 educators were exposed to interactive plenary sessions in which keynote speakers walked the participants through the practices using authentic hands-on activities and materials detailing the practices, and STEM professional development providers engaged them in the practices in STEM topic specific "strands" (intensive 25 hour short courses based on themes such as mining, energy, computer science, robotics, transportation, and etc). To determine the impact of the summer institute, we developed and administered an instrument to assess the participants' knowledge and engagement in teaching core STEM practices. Pre-Test Results: Our analysis revealed that before the teachers (N = 347) entered the i-STEM professional development offering they had very limited knowledge of core practices. When asked to list core practices some responded with answers such as, "I have no knowledge of this." and "Give background on rockets, watching videos, building rockets, discuss how and why they flew the farthest, redo and re-fly." and "Not sure what you mean by "practices."" In contrast, when asked to rate their levels of knowledge of the math practices (on a scale of 1-10) the average rating was 5.67 (SD = 2.21) and knowledge of science/engineering practices was 2.62 (SD = 2.00). Responses indicated that the teachers rated their knowledge as moderate in math and low in science/engineering and yet they struggled to articulate many of the core STEM practices. Post-Test Results: The immediate post-test of the participants (n = 347) revealed increases in self-reported averaged ratings of knowledge of the CCSS-M practices (M = 6.63, SD = 1.86) and the NGSS science and engineering practices (M = 5.04, SD = 2.03). However, as with the pre-test, these ratings were misaligned with detailed articulation of the practices. Responses to the item asking the participants to list the core STEM practices included statements such as, "I think there is a written explanation as to why things work and the steps broken down and explained." and "Not familiar enough." Regardless many participants indicated that they had a better understanding of the practices after the i-STEM institute. å© American Society for Engineering Education, 2015.



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