Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
A significant obstacle to the success of NGSS implementation is the inadequate preparation of secondary school teachers to address the engineering components of the standards. Very few secondary science, mathematics, and technology educators have either educational or practical experience with engineering and many have significant misconceptions or a complete lack of knowledge of engineering.
Research has shown that employing an engineering design protocol to support STEM instruction can improve student understanding and knowledge retention of related STEM content, as well as foster critical problem-solving skills and technological literacy. Additionally, engaging students in engineering systems design tasks to create solutions for technical challenges has been shown to diminish the opportunity gap and subsequent performance disparities for traditionally underrepresented groups of students.
Research has identified several aspects of STEM teacher professional development that may improve teachers’ knowledge of science and engineering principles, as well as affective domains related to pedagogical confidence. These aspects include collective participation, focus on disciplinary content knowledge, active teacher learning, and coherence through an overall program of teacher learning and ongoing communication.
The workshops were taught and developed collaboratively among university science education, biology, physics, and engineering faculty. The workshops focused specifically on the engineering design principles emphasized throughout the NGSS and American Society for Engineering Education standards There were two modules: (1) electrical engineering co-instructed with physics education faculty (6 h); and (2) biotechnology co-instructed with biology education faculty (4 h). Each module addressed disciplinary core ideas, crosscutting concepts, and science and engineering practices through theory-based instruction and discussions, hands-on tasks, and collaborative assessment design.
The findings from the present study suggest a university-based professional development program in STEM integration had immediate affective impacts with regard to engineering epistemologically sound beliefs, pedagogical self-efficacy, and advisement and career awareness. Surveyed teachers reported improved confidence in explaining engineering concepts and design, implementing activities with appropriate materials and resources, applying content principles to engineering, assessing student work in engineering, and promoting student interaction, interest, and positive attitudes toward engineering.