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Refining an Instrument and Studying Elementary Teachers’ Understanding of the Scope of Engineering

Abstract

"To effectively incorporate engineering into their instruction, K-12 teachers need sufficient knowledge of the engineering discipline. An important component of teachers' engineering knowledge is their understanding of the nature of engineering: what engineers do, the epistemological underpinnings of engineering, and the relationships between engineering and other fields of study. In this study, we present a quantitative tool that was developed to assess teachers' knowledge of a particular nature of engineering dimension: the scope of engineering, which describes the demarcation between engineering and non-engineering. This tool was used to assess the knowledge of teachers and engineering graduate students, before and after they participated in a research project focused on improving elementary science and engineering instruction. Our results indicate that the scope of engineering knowledge of all participants, including the engineering graduate students, improved over the course of the project. Unexpectedly, we found that engineering graduate students were no more knowledgeable about the scope of engineering than the teachers in the study. We explore potential reasons for this result, propose recommendations for future use of the scope of engineering instrument, and discuss promising avenues for future instrument development."