Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Enrichment Experiences in Engineering (E^sup 3^) for Teachers Summer Research Program: An Examination of Mixed-Method Evaluation Findings on High School Teacher Implementation of Engineering Content in High School STEM Classrooms

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Enrichment Experiences in Engineering (E^sup 3^) for Teachers Summer Research Program: An Examination of Mixed-Method Evaluation Findings on High School Teacher Implementation of Engineering Content in High School STEM Classrooms

Article excerpt

Abstract

Ongoing efforts across the U.S. to encourage K-12 students to consider science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers have been motivated by concerns that the STEM pipeline is shrinking because of declining student enrollment and increasing rates of retirement in industry. The Enrichment Experiences in Engineering (E3) for Teachers Summer Research Program at Texas A&M University engages high school STEM teachers in an engineering research experience so they can intro- duce engineering concepts through the courses they teach to their students and stimulate students to pursue engineer- ing careers. This paper presents pro- grammatic evaluation mixed-methods findings assessing the value of the E3 program as a catalyst for STEM teach- ers' professional development in under- standing the field of engineering and their perceived ability to implement en- gineering content into their high school STEM classes. Quantitative programmatic evaluation findings document that the E3 program had a positive benefit for STEM teachers as related to their experiences in teaching and promoting the field of engineering to their students. Qualitative programmatic evaluation findings docu- ment two themes, "Positive Professional Development Growth" and "Short/Long- Term Benefits of Participation." Finally, recommendations are provided to high school STEM teachers and Colleges of Engineering to enhance their partner- ships.

Introduction

For the U.S. to maintain global economic competitiveness, more citi- zens with engineering degrees are needed (U.S Department of Labor, 2007; National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Academy of Science, 2010). However, both engineering enrollments and degrees awarded began declining over two decades ago, despite more than 10 percent projected job growth in the en- gineering disciplines in the near future (National Science Board, 2008; Dohm and Shniper, 2007; National Science Board, 2010). Moreover, the engineering workforce of today does not reflect the nation's demographics: women, His- panics and African Americans are underrepresented in engineering. In a field of predominantly white males, only 11 percent of engineers are female, and an even smaller percentage are minority (ie., 4 percent are African American, 6 percent are Hispanic) (Busch-Vishniac and Jarosz 2007; National Science Foun- dation 2009).

Similarly, in undergraduate engineering programs, only 20 percent of stu- dents enrolled are female and their share of the engineering degrees is ap- proximately 17 percent (Chubin, May et al., 2005; Dedicated Engineer, 2006). For minorities, African Americans represent 6 percent of enrolled engineering students and a 5 percent share of the engineering degrees awarded, while His- panic percentages are 7 percent and 6 percent, respectively (U.S. Department of Education, 2009; Chubin, May et al., 2005). Diversifying the engineering workforce should be a priority, not only to meet continuing demand, but to reflect the nation's population as well. With the changing demographics of our country, it is vital to recruit from minority groups, as well as women, to help satisfy projected engineering workforce needs.

To increase the number and diversity of students majoring in engineering, it is essential to improve exposure to this field during the K-12 academic years. Millions of dollars are spent each year in the United States to improve public understanding of engineering. However, research indicates that K-12 teachers and students typically have little understanding of the profession (Committee on Egual Opportunities in Science and Engineering, 2000; Cunningham and Knight, 2004; Cunningham, Lachapelle et al., 2005). Because "front line" im- pact is made by teachers, educating them about engineering and expanding their knowledge of engineering careers are critical to encouraging students to pursue this field. Since most high school math and science teachers have had little contact with engineering or related careers, it is not surprising that these teachers have misconceptions about engineering (Hoh, 2007). …

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