Cross-Case Analysis of Engineering Education Experiences in Inclusive STEM-Focused High Schools in the United States

In an attempt to broaden participation in STEM, a new type of high school is emerging, high schools which include a focus on engineering, have few or no academic admission criteria, and actively involve students of all levels of ability, known as Inclusive STEM High Schools (ISHSs). One aspect of successful ISHSs includes the intentional and explicit integration of engineering learning opportunities into coursework. The purpose of this paper is to report results of a systematic cross-case analysis exploring the extent of engineering learning opportunities in five exemplar ISHSs. The results are framed by the Engineering in K-12 Education report from which seven different topics were derived to appropriately represent the field of engineering in schools: design, identifying constraints, modeling and analysis, engineering habits of mind, systems thinking, modeling, identifying constraints, communication, and optimization. The cross-case analysis was conducted by aggregating the information gathered through surveys, interviews, focus groups, classroom observations, and document analysis, noting similarities and differences across schools and mechanisms for the course foci. It was found in the participating ISHSs that engineering is not merely an elective; all students must take at least one engineering course to graduate, although the states in which the schools are located did not require engineering for a diploma. The most prominent topics from the recommended list found at the schools were design, engineering habits of mind, and communication, while the least prominent were modeling, analysis, and identifying constraints. Based on the results of this study, the engineering education community is encouraged to continue making engineering concepts and skills accessible to K-12 educators, who may not have prior formal training in the field of engineering or engineering education.

Peters-Burton, E. E. & Johnson, T. (2018). Cross-case analysis of engineering education experiences in inclusive STEM-focused high schools in the United States. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 6(4), 320-342.