Assessing the Effects of Authentic Experiential Learning Activities on Teacher Confidence with Engineering Concepts
There is a growing concern in the US about the lack of student interest and aptitude in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) disciplines. Research indicates that engineering and technology integration in K-12 improve students’ content understanding and skill development, understanding of interactions among the STEM disciplines, and interest in STEM careers. Many in-service STEM teachers have limited experience and/or educational background in engineering and technology. These teachers have limited confidence to incorporate engineering and technology in their classroom.
At a professional development (PD) workshop, that is part of a National Science Foundation (NSF) funded engineering research project, teachers from different school districts were invited to learn building automation and additive manufacturing at a university campus in summer 2017. The overall goal of the project is to increase the number of students on the STEM pathway. This work reports the findings of a study that explored the effectiveness of a teacher PD workshop implemented in the first year of the project. In the PD workshop teachers engaged in authentic engineering design activities using 3D printers and the internet of things technologies. In this two-week program, teachers were trained to use computer-aided design tools, additive manufacturing processes, and how to integrate sensors into various devices. University faculty and students, who administered the workshop, illustrated how to effectively incorporate these technologies and engineering design principles into their classrooms.
The main question posed was: to what extent do the teachers’ participation in the professional development activities affect their confidence and efficacy toward STEM and perception of engineering and teaching? To answer this question, authors employed a pre- and post-test survey research design was employed; data were collected from the participants before and after the PD workshop activities. The Design, Engineering and Technology (DET) Survey and Teacher Efficacy and Attitudes toward STEM Survey (T-STEM) were administered to participants. DET is a five-point Likert scale with 40 items. This instrument focuses on capturing the participants’ views and familiarity with DET concepts. The T_STEM survey is a 5 point Likert scale with 36 items. The T_STEM survey measures participants’ confidence and efficacy towards STEM fields, 21st century learning, and other constructs. Quantitative data and statistical analyses of pre and post workshop data are presented.