Enhancing Elementary Teacher Practice Through Technological/Engineering Design Based Learning
As widespread as Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) initiatives and reforms are today in education, a rudimentary problem with these endeavors is being overlooked. In general, education programs and school districts are failing to ensure that elementary teachers who provide children's early academic experiences have the appropriate knowledge of and proclivity toward STEM subjects. This issue is further compounded by the focus centered on mathematics due to accountability requirements leaving very little emphasis on science, and most often, the exclusion of technology and engineering instruction from the curriculum (Blank, 2012; Cunningham, 2009; Lederman and Lederman, 2013; Lewis, Harshbarger, and Dema, 2014; Walker, 2014). At the elementary level, the lack of science instruction and professional development generates a weakness for both pre- and in-service teachers and prompts elevated concerns about teaching science (Goodrum, Cousins, and Kinnear, 1992; Anderson, 2002). Research (Lewis, 1999/2006; Wells, 2014) suggests that one way to address this weakness is through the technological/engineering designed-based approach within the context of integrative STEM education.
The purpose of the study was to gain an understanding of change in science instructional content and practice through professional development that educates elementary teachers to implement Technological/Engineering Design Based Learning (T/E DBL) as part of teaching science. The research design was a multiple case study which adhered to a concurrent mixed method approach (Teddlie, and Tashakkori, 2006; Yin, 2003),with four participants who were recruited because of their availability and their grade level teaching assignment that correlated to an analysis of the 2013 science state accountability test, Standards of Learning (Pyle, 2015). Data collected from surveys were analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics. These data were corroborated with a sweep instrument and assessment rubric analyses, and interview responses to validate the results.
Findings from this study revealed that professional development model used in this study was clearly effective in getting elementary teachers to implement T/E DBL. The participants were better able to integrate T/E DBL when planning and designing instructional units and had an improved understanding of the science concepts they were teaching.