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Engineering Teaching Behaviors in PK-3 Classrooms


"Guidelines provided by the National Research Councils (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education and subsequent implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) require that both science and engineering content be delivered in K-12 classrooms. Furthermore, this content must be delivered as students engage in science and engineering practices, and must point toward larger principles known as cross-cutting concepts that span multiple scientific and engineering disciplines.

As part of the NURTURES program, a 5 year project funded by a NSF Math-Science Partnership, we have developed and delivered summer institutes for PK-3 teachers to improve the quality of science and engineering education in early childhood classrooms and to facilitate the implementation of the NGSS in an urban school system. As part of this project, we have developed an instrument known as the Systematic Characterization of Inquiry Instruction in Early LearNing Classroom Environments, or SCIIENCE instrument, to measure the efficacy of our professional development and to improve pedagogical practices in PK-3 classrooms.

The SCIIENCE instrument was designed to objectively capture the presence of specific best practices outlined in the NRC Framework as they occur within a science lesson and focuses on teacher behaviors. The goals of the SCIIENCE instrument are (a) to provide a standardized tool based on the NRC Framework for assessing the quality of science and engineering instruction in PK-3 classrooms; (b) to capture the instructional practices that engage students in their science and engineering lessons, promote scientific and engineering practices, and encourage higher-level thinking; and (c) to provide a feedback mechanism for guiding professional development of PK-3 teachers designed to facilitate NGSS implementation.

This paper describes the aspects of the SCIIENCE instrument that measure teacher behaviors associated with engineering practices specified by the NGSS that are appropriate for PK-3 classrooms. Furthermore, we show results from the application of the SCIIENCE instrument that demonstrate a substantial improvement in teaching practices with regards to NGSS engineering content and practices following completion of our summer institute. A comparison of these results to similar results for teaching behaviors associated with scientific inquiry shows that PK-3 teachers may be more amenable to the implementation of engineering practices in their classrooms."