Engineering Education Challenge

Asking the Right K-12 Questions
How to Answer Them to Evaluate K-12 STEM
Outreach and Engagement
Carlos Rodriguez, Ph.D., Principal Research Scientist
American Institutes for Research
April 2012
NAE/AAES Convocation
For STEM Education Success:
Give adequate instructional time to science as
well as math especially in K-5
Enhance K-12 teachers’ capacity
◦ Deep knowledge of STEM subject matter
◦ Understanding how students’ learning develops in
STEM fields, the kinds of misconceptions students
may develop, and strategies for addressing
students’ evolving needs
PD to instructional leaders to create school
conditions that support student achievement
For STEM Education Success:
◦ In-School and Out-of-School experiences
◦ Integrated curriculum, i.e., hands-on, direct teach,
labs or experiments
◦ Low student to teacher ratios
◦ PBL (problem based learning) in comprehensive
open-ended projects (e.g., robotics, “canonical”
engineering, i.e., projects that involve multiple
engineering tasks-mechanical, electrical, civil, etc.)
◦ High emphasis on self-directed learning tasks
Defined outcomes – drives interventions. Success is measured
against the intended results.
Persistence enables effective interventions to take hold - includes
proactive leadership, sufficient resources and support at the district
and school levels.
Personalization – develops students as individuals. Individual
differences, uniqueness and diversity are recognized and honored.
Challenging content anchors knowledge and skills students master.
Students understand the link between content rigor and career
Engaged adults believe in the potential of all students – they
support, stimulate interest and create high expectations. Educators
play multiple roles as teachers, coaches, mentors, tutors and
counselors. Teachers develop and maintain quality interactions with
students and each other. Active family support is sought and
These design principles of programs that work, in informal and informal seetings, appear
to comprise a package rather than an à la carte menu.
Wouldn’t pre-collegiate engineering education
have to be embedded in changing schools and
systems fundamentally from the ground-up and
focus on the need for individual deep change in
teaching and learning to support and sustain
system-level change?
So the questions we ask must include questions
that inquire into individual changes in beliefs and
practices among students and teachers. And,
also recognize the importance of the actions of
larger institutions and the mandates and
constraints under which they operate.
So, units of analysis could lead to at least four
areas of inquiry:
1) inquiry into K-12 engineering education as a
catalyst for school renewal,
2) inquiry into factors that support scale;
3) inquiry into teacher change,
4) inquiry into causes of student achievement
gains through pre-collegiate engineering
How do programs at the local, regional, and
national level increase awareness contribute to a
comprehensive ecosystem for K-12 students to
choose ST M as a career option?
How should K-12 systems work with industry
and government to implement or expand
program implementation in underserved
How should communities work together with
other organizations (non-profits, industry, and
government) to establish the K-12 Engineering
ecosystem in underserved communities?
Engineering is Elementary – EiE - Current
research questions include:
What do students know about engineering and
How does the EiE curriculum affect what students
know about engineering and technology?
How does the EiE curriculum affect students’
understanding of related science and
mathematics topics?
How does the EiE curriculum affect students’
attitudes towards STEM activities and careers?
Engineering is Elementary – EiE - Current
research questions include (continued):
How does the EiE curriculum impact the
understanding and attitudes of female students,
students of color, low-income students, and
other populations underrepresented in STEM
How does EiE professional development affect
teachers’ pedagogy for STEM topics?
How does EiE professional development affect
teachers’ attitudes towards teaching engineering
and technology in their classrooms?
Nature of evaluation questions
 Emphasis on causal questions: To what degree
are causal questions central, and to whom?
◦ Types of causal knowledge: Is the focus more on the
effects of known causes or the causes of known effects?
Emphasis on Probable Questions – understanding
the conditions for effects
Emphasis on Conclusive Questions
Knowledge production and accumulation: How
important is knowledge accumulation?
Evaluation constraints
Degree of program development: Has the
program been implemented effectively, and
with clear logic agreed on among
Resource constraints: Will there be evaluation
capacity, ongoing funding, and adequate
Political constraints: Is there agreement among
stakeholders on the influence or use of
What public policies and practices are needed
to increase the number of K-12 students
(both mainstream and underserved) going
into STEM careers?
What can you learn from your “interventions”
to assist in the development of a national
partnership which can improve the K-12
ST M ecosystem?
Then, based on the above, what ACTIONS
The acquisition of knowledge, skills, and
habits of mind;
Opportunities to put these into practice;
Developing sense of competence, confidence,
and progress;
Motivation to be in, a sense of belonging to,
or self-identification with the field; and
Information about stages, requirements, and
Expanding Underrepresented Minority Participation: America's Science and
Technology Talent at the Crossroads
 Which
ones do you want or
need to answer?

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