Investigation of Problem Solving Skills among 12th Grade Engineering Students
MetadataShow full item record
US competitiveness in the 21st century global economy depends on a workforce that is science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) literate, and has knowledge and skills to tackle complex technological problems. In response to the need for a STEM literate workforce equipped with 21st century skills there is a push for K-12 educational reform. STEM literacy is the ability to use content knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and math in solving human problems in a collaborative manner (NRC, 2009, Wiggins and McTighe, 2005). Researchers have argued that the integrative STEM education (I-STEM ED) pedagogical approach (with its roots in technology education) promotes active learning through student discovery of using science and mathematics content and practices in novel situations, with active construction of understanding by doing (Cajas, 2001; Wells, 2010, 2016b) Critical thinking and problem solving (CT and PS) skills, collectively identified as 21st century skills by P21 (2005a), involved in solving authentic design problems are not assessed in traditional science and mathematics standardized testing or in Tech-ED classrooms in K-12 grades. Assessments in traditional classrooms, focus on the extent of correctness of the end-result, and rarely, if ever, on the reasoning or procedures leading to the result (Docktor and Heller, 2009; Shavelson, Ruiz-Primo, Li and Ayala, 2003; Steif and Dantzler, 2005). Furthermore, the content knowledge tested is directly related to what has been recently taught in the classroom, and eliminates the need for solvers' demonstration of metacognitive processes involved in CT and PS that require recalling/selecting the discipline specific content knowledge. Within traditional Tech-ED classrooms, students are assessed using competencies defined in the Career and Technical Education curriculum framework which do not focus on solving authentic problems. Herein lies the gap between what is needed for the 21st century worker and what is currently the focus of secondary education. The purpose of this study was to measure the extent to which students immersed in an I-STEM ED program were successful in solving an authentic design-based problem presented to them outside the context of the classroom where the content was learned. In addition, five specific student abilities (SAs) that contribute to authentic problem-solving were identified and a rubric to assess these SAs was developed and validated. A design-no-make challenge (DNMC) was developed and administered to these students. Analysis of their responses showed that students immersed in an integrative STEM education program performed significantly better in designing a solution to the DNMC when compared with a hypothesized mean for students in a traditional classroom. Furthermore, the specific SAs associated with selecting and utilizing the relevant science and math content and practices, and communicating logical reasoning in their design of a solution were found to be strongly correlated to students' successful problem-solving.
- Doctoral Dissertations