Louis S. Nadelson
A cursory review of the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) reveals the present and anticipated future of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) factored heavily into their development. Although engineering, which involves the application of science, has appeared in previous standards, its role has never been as substantial or as integrated. The integration of engineering suggests that elementary teachers and secondary science teachers will be expected to teach engineering practices as part of their curriculum. With this increased emphasis on engineering comes the need to prepare and support a wide range of teachers, prompting the question: How do we ensure teachers are prepared to teach engineering, and what should preparation efforts look like?
Because engineering is not typically covered in the preparation of secondary science teachers and rarely appears in the elementary teacher preparation curriculum, it is unlikely that K–12 teachers are adequately prepared to teach engineering as outlined in the first draft of the NGSS. Few teachers have formal exposure to engineering, much less to developmentally and sequentially appropriate engineering curricula and instruction to meet the needs of their students. The NGSS stand to create a tremendous need for new professional development (PD) programs and the modification of existing teacher preparation curriculum.
The professional preparation and development of teachers who will teach science and engineering should be approached strategically, methodically, and efficiently. Unfortunately, no standards exist to guide such an approach. This motivated us to develop a working model of a PD framework for teachers of engineering to guide the development of teacher preparation programs and to ensure efficacy. Some might question whether a single set of standards is appropriate for both inservice and preservice teachers or both elementary and secondary educators. Although the approaches used in the preparation of preservice teachers and the continuing education of inservice teachers may differ, the desired outcome is the same: an enhanced capacity for, and knowledge about, teaching using an engineering perspective. While approaches used to address the needs of elementary teachers and secondary teachers may differ in focus and levels of sophistication, anticipated outcomes and levels of teacher effectiveness are expected to be the same.
The following standards for the professional preparation and development of teachers of engineering, which were modeled after similar standards for teachers of science as outlined in the 1996 National Science Education Standards, are intended to ensure that teachers are equipped with the knowledge and capacity to teach engineering across the K–12 curriculum as called for by the NGSS and other state and national engineering learning standards. This list reflects not only our work, but also feedback from a wide range of stakeholders including representatives from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Academy of Engineering, the American Society for Engineering Education and its K–12 division, NSTA, other STEM education professional organizations, K–12 engineering curriculum development groups, higher education, and the K–12 community.
- Standard A: Engineering Content
Teach teachers essential engineering content through the perspectives and methods of engineering design and engineering practices.
- Standard B: Engineering as a Context for Teaching
Prepare teachers to use engineering as a context for teaching a range of STEM and non-STEM standards.
- Standard C: Learning and Knowing in Engineering
Make connections among curriculum, instruction, learning, and assessment.
- Standard D: Pedagogical Content Knowledge for Teaching Engineering
Foster and promote the reflective practitioner to support effective teaching of engineering.
- Standard E: Alignment to Research, Standards, and Professional Practices
Align to current educational research, student learning standards, and the goals of professional engineering organizations (e.g., the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the American Society of Mechanical Engineering).
In developing these standards for teacher preparation and professional development, we sought to focus on engineering while attending to the true nature of the K–12 curriculum, teacher needs, and the possibilities for integration and application across content and disciplines. We are continuing this work as a collaborative effort with K–12 teachers, university faculty in STEM and the learning sciences, and STEM professionals. In particular, we will seek additional K–12 practitioner input at NSTA area conferences this fall to ensure these standards, when eventually published and distributed for widespread use, fully reflect the perspective and experience of the K–12 educators whose interests they will serve.
Louis S. Nadelson is an associate professor in the College of Education at Boise State University. He also uses his more than 20 years of high school and college math and science teaching to frame his research on STEM teaching and learning. Cheryl Farmer is the founding project director of UTeachEngineering. She has overseen the creation of degree programs for preservice and inservice teachers of engineering at The University of Texas as well as the development of a course-based PD program for Engineer Your World. UTeachEngineering and the development of Engineer Your World are supported by a NSF grant.