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Elementary Education Majors Learn How to Teach Science and Engineering from an Engineer

Karen High, School of Chemical Engineering, Oklahoma State University, 423 Engineering North, Stillwater, OK 74078

Dr. Karen High, faculty member in Chemical Engineering, was a Laboratory Instructor for the fall 2005 Semester for CIED (Curriculum and Instruction Education) 4353 at Oklahoma State University. The course is “Science in the Elementary School Curriculum.” Approximately 75% of class time is devoted to laboratory activities and field experiences that promote the science content, process, learning theory, philosophy and curricula appropriate for grades 1-8. Class and field activities are hands-on, inquiry-based activities, utilizing whole group discussions, cooperative learning groups, and some individual projects. Laboratory experiences are designed to emphasize the science process skills. The remaining 25% of class time is devoted to lecture, discussion, and demonstration.

The activities and the presence of an engineer provided an experimental group (taught by Dr. High) of students with information and resources to teach engineering to their elementary classes. The activities were successful in improving the ability and the confidence of the elementary education students to understand and teach engineering. The awareness of engineering design and concepts were greatly enhanced. The student's confidence was increased in many areas as evidenced by a survey with 40 statements that the students were asked their agreement about.

The major differences between the two groups were in the engineering understanding and the teaching engineering areas. The control group (not taught by Dr. High) did not feel that they could teach engineering concepts except in areas that they already had exposure from other courses/experiences: working in teams, problem solving and brainstorming. Both groups also showed the highest agreement with the areas that they had already been exposed. The most significant changes were seen in the confidence of the experimental group to teach engineering concepts, particularly in the differences between science and engineering, engineering concepts, and process and product design.

Dr. High was also able to effectively teach the students how to teach science. Both the control and experimental groups showed some increase in confidence in teaching science over the course of the semester. The activities used for teaching science included understanding of science standards and concepts, use of lab books, modular and inquiry based science activities, and technology, development of multidisciplinary curricula that includes science and the ability to develop science curricula and to effectively teach science to elementary students. The students in the experimental group felt that Dr. High effectively taught them how to teach science. They showed confidence in teaching engineering concepts. They felt that it was beneficial to have an engineer teach the lab section.