Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Introducing Engineering Design to a Science Teaching Methods Course through Educational Robotics and Exploring Changes in Views of Preservice Elementary Teachers

Academic journal article Journal of College Science Teaching

Introducing Engineering Design to a Science Teaching Methods Course through Educational Robotics and Exploring Changes in Views of Preservice Elementary Teachers

Article excerpt

To meet the demand for engineering professionals and to keep its leading role in the world, the United States needs more focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) teacher training (Breiner, Harkness, Johnson, & Koehler, 2012; Council of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service, 2010; Subotnik, Tai, Rickoff, & Almarode, 2009). Because most high school students have already made career decisions by their senior year (Inkson, 2006; Koetters, 2007), and students are influenced by their teachers (Bahar & Adiguzel, 2016; Bogue & Marra, 2009), creating interest in engineering should start as early as elementary school to motivate students to consider a career in STEM. However, it is rare for elementary teachers to introduce engineering. Perhaps teachers do not have the confidence or they are not well equipped with knowledge and skills necessary to integrate engineering (American Society for Engineering Education, 2006; Nathan, Tran, Atwood, Prevost, & Phelps, 2010), but because of changes in the rigor of educational standards, teacher professional development in STEM must be considered.

Comprehensive training for educators is essential because teachers have been assigned the purpose of developing academic skills for college success and also later in the competitive job market. If teachers are prepared, then their students will become equipped for the challenging tasks that take place in the real world. The increasing demands for STEM professionals (International Technology and Engineering Educators Association, 2009; Langdon, McKittrick, Beede, Khan, & Doms, 2011) and the release of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States, 2013) compels teachers to update their curriculum knowledge to provide students with the skill set to fulfill those needs (Moore, Tank, Glancy, & Kersten, 2015). As states adopt the NGSS, universities take the initiative to prepare preservice and in-service teachers. Through integration of engineering in science methods courses, educators are building on the skills they currently have to increase student success. Robotics education combines engineering and science in a way that also motivates students toward STEM careers. Robotics is a unique technology platform for increasing student interest in engineering. Blanchard, Freiman, and Lirrete-Pitre (2010) observed that students advanced in problem solving and engineering skills by using robotics in the classroom. Because of its strong nature of instant feedback and evidence of improved cognitive skills, robotics is one of the successful programs that take place in school curriculums to support students' academic demands in STEM (Barker & Ansorge, 2007; Mataric, Koenig, & Feil-Seifer, 2007; Nelson, 2012). In a broader sense, robotics can be integrated into curriculum to teach students engineering concepts. However, comprehensive science standards, sufficient materials, and teacher training are essential elements if a program is to be successful (Maxwell et al., 2013; Zhou, Yuen, Popescu, Guillen, & Davis, 2015).

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Welch (2010) stated that educational robotics is a great tool to motivate and improve students' technical knowledge in engineering. It is a cross-curricular tool that draws attention to STEM. Therefore, the creative building and coding in robotics programs can attract students of all grade levels to STEM and engineering (Alimisis, 2009). According to Benitti's (2012) systematic review, robotics improves logic, computational thinking, problem solving, and inquiry. Similarly, studies indicated that robotics improved students' math and science attitudes, critical thinking, teamwork and collaboration, and problem-solving skills; all of which are essential for engineering careers (Blanchard et al., 2010; Chambers & Carbonaro, 2003; Maxwell et al., 2013; Newley, Deniz, Kaya, & Yesilyurt, 2016; Nugent, Barker, Grandgenett, & Adamchuk, 2010; Ozis, Newley, & Kaya, 2016; Robinson, 2005). …

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