Creating engineering design challenges is never easy. For seasoned engineers in academia, creating real-world context and content rich problems is difficult. For K-12 teachers, this task is even more challenging given their often limited experience with engineering. However, with initiatives such as the Next Generation Science Standard (NGSS) that explicitly include engineering design as a topic, it is essential to understand teachers’ ability to create and integrate design challenges into their courses. This Work in Progress paper evaluates engineering design challenges created by secondary biology teachers during a summer modeling based workshop.
During the summer workshop, secondary school teachers assumed the role of students and learned about engineering design by direct instruction in order to create engineering design challenges that were based in the life sciences. Teams of 3-5 teachers representing a variety of schools created the challenges and posted videos of their plans on an online platform (Edthena). Teachers from other teams and the workshop leaders provided feedback on the online platform about how well the proposed engineering design challenge would allow students to engage in engineering design practices. The teachers then revised their plans and uploaded new videos of their work for additional feedback. Both sets of videos were evaluated and scored using the same engineering design challenge rubric that included criteria such as the open-endedness of the problem, use of constraints and criteria, and the potential for iteration in the designs.
The initial results of our work show that teachers often struggle with making their design challenges open-ended as opposed to closed-ended single solution problems. Additionally, they view constraints and criteria as aspects of the educational experience instead of elements of the design problems (i.e., the students do not have access to computers instead of the solution can only use the materials provided). We are in the initial stages of analyzing this data for patterns of improvement. We plan to use the results to develop interventions targeting the engineering practices that teachers find challenging, thereby improving their ability to create engineering design challenges that can be integrated into existing science curricula.
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