From Conceptual to Implementation phase

In one of my classes we had project presentations today. It is pretty amazing what people came up with. The major focus of the projects was on creating a prototype that would help students in learning of STEM disciplines. All of the designs presented were very different, covered a wide range of topics and were incredibly creative. It was also interesting to see how new technological affordances allow for new ideas that we couldn’t even consider before, to be presented in a very realistic form. One question that I kept asking myself during all of these presentations, is how do we take all of this wonderful new ideas and actually make a product out of them? How do we move from a conceptual phase to the implementation phase? It would be very useful I think to have classes to teach how to develop a business plan to take these new designs and turn them to the actual products.

Leadership in Engineering Education

In one of my classes we had a discussion about leadership education for engineering students. Some of the well known universities across the country are beginning to develop new curriculum materials to accommodate integration of leadership in undergraduate engineering programs. But with the set structure of engineering departments seems that it would make it really difficult to add any additional courses to their programs. The number of classes is usually quite rigid and it takes a lot of administrative efforts in case of any academic changes.

One way to include leadership classes in university curriculum is to make them electives and highly recommend engineering undergraduate students to take these classes to satisfy electives requirements.

Another way to integrate leadership in engineering is to think about the content integration rather then specific course completion. Leadership content could be added to some of the required engineering courses and this model might offer a better approach to making Leadership directly applicable to engineering discipline rather than taking an additional class. For an undergraduate engineer it is important to see leadership content in the context of engineering discipline to provide a better understanding of the importance of leadership skills.

Research Article Analysis 5

Title: Development of a Survey to Assess K-12 Teachers’ Perception of Engineers and Familiarity with Teaching Design, Engineering, and Technology. (Yasar, Baker, Robinson-Kurpius, Krause, & Roberts, 2006)

Purpose of the research: To develop and administer a survey instrument to assess K-12 teachers’ perceptions of engineering and their familiarity with teaching design engineering, and technology.

Methods: Developed survey instrument included 69 items with a four-point scale response format. Each item could be rated from one (“not at all” or “strongly disagree”) to four (“strongly agree” or “very important”). The survey was posted on a web site and also mailed to school districts throughout the state of Arizona. 96 teachers took this survey representing 23 % of the school districts from all regions of the state.

Main findings: The results showed that teachers viewed engineers “to have good mathematical skills and hold a proficient science background, like to fix things, and earn good money. However, teachers thought that many people held a gender stereotype, generally viewing engineers as males.” The teachers in this sample “held stereotypical views of engineers that reflected a lack of understanding about what engineers do. A typical engineer was seen to have poor writing, verbal, and people skills. On the other hand, they did recognize the need for good mathematics and science skills.”

Analysis: Based on the findings, the authors of this paper suggested that teachers with this narrow view of engineering might not encourage students to consider engineering as a career and might misrepresent the skill requirements of engineering careers to students. It is a very important observation that is in line with other research findings pointing out the missing link of communication between students and teachers about engineering. It is a new concept for K-12 educational system and it becomes especially important to put extra efforts in providing teachers with necessary training in engineering education so that they could engage students in the important conversation about engineering professions.

Reference

Yasar, S., Baker, D., Robinson-Kurpius, S., Krause, S., & Roberts, C. (2006). Development of a Survey to Assess K-12 Teachers’ Perceptions of Engineers and Familiarity with Teaching Design, Engineering, and Technology. Journal of Engineering Education.

Reasearch Article Analysis 4

Title: Middle School Students’ Attitudes To And Knowledge About Engineering (Gibbons, Hirsch, Kimmel, Rockland, & Bloom, 2004)

Purpose of the research: In the paper by the researchers measure middle school students’ attitudes to mathematics, science, engineers and jobs in engineering, as well as their knowledge about engineering careers.

Methods: Researchers have developed the survey with attitudinal scales to investigate students’ attitudes to mathematics, science and engineering, knowledge about engineering and engineering careers, recent academic performance and who has talked to them about engineering as a career option.

Main findings: The results of this study show that although many middle school students have positive attitudes toward mathematics, science and engineering they do not have as much of knowledge about what engineers do. In the provided task during the assessment to measure the knowledge about engineering and engineering careers measure, very few students were able to correctly name five different types of engineers and none of those were able to give completely correct examples of the type of work done by each type of engineer. Many of the students also reported low frequency of hearing about engineering from their classroom teachers or from the other adults who advise.

Analysis: The findings about the middle school students’ attitudes towards and knowledge about engineering are important because as a lot of other research indicated middle school is an important time when students begin to show their interests in particular subjects and usually this interest continues into the high school and possibly college. So, by not having engineering as part of the curriculum, students do not have an opportunity to learn about this discipline and not surprising that by the time they are ready to start college, many of the students have no clue about what engineering is and if it is worth pursuing it. In addition, as many students commented in this study, they don’t hear much about engineering from their teachers or other adults. Therefore, students’ opportunities to learn about engineering are really limited in or outside the classroom and that deserves a lot of attention from the educational community. We can’t expect to increase students’ interest in engineering professions if they don’t have a good or any idea about this discipline.

Reference

Gibbons, S., Hirsch, L., Kimmel, H., Rockland, R., & Bloom, J. (2004). Middle school students’ attitudes to and knowledge about engineering. International Conference on Engineering Education.

Research Article Analysis 3

Title: Assessing Elementary School Students’ Conceptions of Engineering and Technology (Cunningham, Lachapelle, & Lindgren-Streicher, 2006)

Purpose of the research: In this paper the authors set out to investigate what do elementary students know about engineering profession, what engineers do and technology in general.

Methods: In this study 504 participants were asked what engineers do (by selecting from 16 pictorial representations providing descriptions of people at work and asked students to circle the kinds of work that engineers do). In addition, participants were asked to complete in writing the phrase “An engineering is a person who …” Similar instrument was used to measure students’ conception of technology. The instrument consisted of 16 images and descriptions asking students to circle those items that were technology. They were also asked to respond to the open-ended question “How do you know if something is technology?” in writing.

Main findings: The results of this study identified that the top students choices of what engineers do are all rooted in activities that focus on construction, building, machinery, and vehicles, which suggests that students are identifying them as engineering based on their association with these attributes, not based on the type of work engineers do. Such responses suggest that students strongly confuse construction workers and auto mechanics with engineers”. The results for students’ ideas about what technology is, revealed that for the majority of students, technology is closely linked with power and electricity. The most often selected choices included television, cell phones, and power lines and less than a third of the students identified any of the everyday human-made objects as technology.

Analysis: This article is one of the first research works attempted to measure elementary students perception about engineering and technology. The findings of this work are really important for thinking about how do we define and teach technological literacy. I used this article for my literature review for the final paper about Public Perception of Technology and Engineering Education in K-12. It helped me to build the argument about the importance of teaching engineering and technology concepts starting in K-12.

Reference

Cunningham, C. M., Lachapelle, C., & Lindgren-Streicher, A. (2006). Assessing Elementary School Students’ Conceptions of Engineering and Technology. Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition, Portland, OR.

Using graphing to communicate ideas?

Reading about the value of diagrams to facilitate reasoning. Results from a study with middle school children learning science showed that “children who sketched diagrams learned the material better than those who did not.” Similarly in another paper, the connection is drawn to the importance of emphasizing graphing practice in classrooms. Where the author further makes an argument of making graphing a collective practice that would be similar to how scientists use graphing for communication of their ideas: “When graphs are produced in collective efforts, they facilitate students’ communication by providing a backdrop to their talk and gestures; they are outcomes of joint labor and indices for their shared understandings. As an authentic practice (scientists do it every day), graphing is an important aspect of communication; when used in classrooms, it can lead to student-centered science talk.”

Very often in K-12 graphing is perceived as just a set of steps to get the representation rather then teaching students to use their graphing skills as an important reasoning process. Are we not helping our students early enough to develop important scientific reasoning skill by not putting enough of emphasis on integrating graphing as a way to communicate ideas?

Reference

Tversky, B. (2004). Visuospatial reasoning. (pp. 209-240)

Roth, W. –M., & (1997). Graphing: Cognitive Ability or practice?  Science Education, 81, 91-106.

Scientific Discovery Learning with Computer Simulations

Was reading Scientific Discovery Learning with Computer Simulations article that makes a general point that any of the cognitive tools require a thoughtful guidance or scaffolding for a meaningful impact on students learning. The findings based on the synthesis of research provided in this paper show that instructional measures that positively influence learning outcomes are “providing direct access to domain information as long as the information is presented concurrently with the simulation, providing learners with assignments/questions, exercises/games, including model progressions as part of the learning environment”. I guess it is always a balance of how “constructivistic” the learning environment should be?