Over the last decade, with the ever-increasing demand of STEM majors for the job market and the introduction of Next Generation Science Standards, the need for introducing and integrating engineering practices within the K-12 curriculum has risen. Accordingly, professional development (PD) programs have been seeking to prepare teachers for incorporating various engineering practices into their curriculum. Several research studies have examined the effectiveness of PD programs by evaluating teacher knowledge, self-efficacy, and student learning outcomes about engineering practices. However, often, teachers themselves are novices to engineering practices. Thus, in the context of PD programs that simultaneously engage teachers and students, it is pertinent to ask “How do teachers resolve the tension between learning alongside their students and teaching them?” In this paper, we seek to address this question by examining the interactions between two teachers and four students as they learned about robotics and worked together as a group to address an engineering design problem. We asked: (a) what actions and strategies did the teachers utilize within the group (teacher’s roles)? and (b) how did these actions impede or facilitate students’ learning about robotics and engineering practices?
The context of this case study is a four-week summer robotic education program for high school teachers. One of the requirements for attending was that each teacher applicant recruit two students from their schools and participate in the program as a team. This novel structure of participation (teachers with students) was decided in response to feedback from earlier PD workshops conducted by the project leaders. It was envisioned that teachers working alongside students would help inform their strategies concerning how to adapt their PD lessons and activities for classroom implementations. Moreover, we anticipated that working as a team would reveal the various actions that teachers might take as they work with their students during school year.
A total of 10 teachers and 22 students from 8 inner-city schools attended the program. In this paper, we focus on one group of two teachers and four students. We video-recorded their interactions throughout the program, took field notes, and interviewed the teachers during the second, third, and last week of the program. We used a thematic analysis approach for coding the field notes, studying the videos, and excerpts from interviews to understand how teachers perceived their roles within the group, what actions they took to manifest their initial goals, and if and how their intended roles changed because of working with students.
The results of preliminary analysis show that, initially, the teachers facilitated students’ learning and the distribution of tasks among them. As the group began facing technical challenges and failures, the teachers intervened more often to fix problems or suggest solutions. The final paper will present a narrative of the roles that teachers played within the group and how their actions might impact students’ learning. The results of this study can contribute to our knowledge about teacher’s pedagogical actions that can facilitate or hinder student learning and how to promote positive strategies within the PDs.
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