In this project, investigators from the University of North Dakota develop, evaluate, and implement an on-going, collaborative professional development program designed to support teachers in teaching engineering design to 5th-8th grade students in rural and Native American communities.
Promoting diverse, inclusive and equitable participation in engineering design education at the elementary and middle school levels is important for a number of reasons. In addition to benefits of a diverse STEM workforce to industry and the economy, youth are better able to make informed decisions about pursuing STEM degrees and STEM career pathways and youth are able to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills that allow them to be creative and innovative problem solvers. However, for youth to participate in inclusive and equitable engineering design experiences in elementary and middle schools settings, teachers need opportunities to develop engineering content knowledge, pedagogical content knowledge, and strategies for culturally-relevant teaching. In this project, investigators from the University of North Dakota develop, evaluate, and implement an on-going, collaborative professional development program designed to support teachers in teaching engineering design to 5th-8th grade students in rural and Native American communities.
The project advances the understanding of teacher training in K-12 engineering education and more specifically culturally-relevant engineering design education for 5th-8th grade students. The program design is guided by principles from Bandura's Social Learning Theory, Gladson-Billing's culturally-relevant teaching, and Gay's cultural-responsive teaching. The project combines promising, but often isolated, elements from previous engineering education professional development to give teachers a) pedagogical and content knowledge, b) culturally-relevant pedagogy that is inclusive of indigenous students, c) a supportive professional learning community, d) examples of project-based engineering problems implemented in real classrooms, e) extended scaffolded practice with their own classroom engineering tasks, and f) on-going support. The program is designed for teachers in rural and tribal schools with curricular materials developed collaboratively with community input to specifically address their community's unique needs. The project research team, guided by a diverse advisory board, will collect both quantitative and qualitative data in the forms of surveys, interviews, and videotaped observations to determine if and how the project is affecting classroom engineering instruction and pedagogy, as well as the sense of competence and self-efficacy of the teacher participants. The classroom engineering tasks created through this project, especially those developed to be specifically relevant to Native American and rural student populations, will be promoted and made available to other teachers through a project website, teaching practice journals, and teacher conferences.