Middle School Teacher Professional Development in Creating a NGSS-plus-5E Robotics Curriculum

The persistent lack of diversity in STEM fields remains a serious challenge for U.S. global competitiveness. STEM jobs are growing 29% faster than any other U.S. sector. Yet, today, white men hold roughly 75% of all scientists and engineering jobs, despite making up only 26% of the total workforce. The cause of this diversity gap can be traced to our educational system, where girls and most children-of-color do not receive equitable public education due to high teacher attrition rates, which in turn affects access to well-trained teachers, and lack of school resources. In addition, “many...students are frustrated by an education they often find irrelevant and removed from the world of work”. This decoupling leads to a decrease in intrinsic motivation and disengagement in STEM fields.

To address the aforementioned STEM national concerns, twenty-six states were involved in creating the national standards, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS is unique in that each standard is called a Performance Expectation (PE). Each PE is made up of three dimensions: Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI’s), Cross Cutting Concepts (CCC’s), Science and Engineering Practices (SEP’s). It is recommended that to teach students effectively, their prior knowledge should be accessed and science misconceptions should be identified to undergo conceptual change—replaced with the correct scientific conceptualization. To do this, we used the 5E Instructional Model (5E’s), which takes learners through a learning progression by engaging them in hands-on activities. The 5E’s are: Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate. The first “E” engages learners in a question that usually is a common science misconception. As the learner goes through the journey of all the 5E’s the science concept becomes clear.

Teacher professional development (PD) that addresses the transition from previous standards to NGSS is crucial. This paper will describe the process and result of developing a LEGO robotics, NGSS, and 5E aligned middle school curriculum during a three-week summer PD program for teachers who teach urban students-of-color. This distinctive curriculum was developed and refined through a multi-stage process: (i) involving PD facilitator training; (ii) three dimensional NGSS curriculum development by teachers and facilitators; and (iii) teacher participants’ support of other teachers. Six middle school science and math teachers participated in the study who had previously undergone LEGO robotics PD with us but lacked formal NGSS-plus-5E lesson development experience. This was done purposefully to focus on curriculum development for the new national standards. A qualitative case study is used as a methodology for analysis. A sociocultural theoretical framework highlighting Bourdieu’s social capital and a critical constructivist perspective are used to describe the benefits of balancing the power of mentor-protégé relationship. This bricolage is used to show that although PD facilitators have a grasp on science concepts and have knowledge on how to create NGSS-plus-5E lessons, teachers inform the pedagogy on how to teach the concepts to middle school students. Teachers and PD facilitators shared human capital, which formed opportunities for them to create strong ties and learn from each other, thereby, socially constructing knowledge.

Ghosh, S., Krishnan, V. J., Borges Rajguru, S., & Kapila, V. (2019). Middle school teacher professional development in creating a NGSS-plus-5E robotics curriculum (Fundamental). Proceedings of the 2019 ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition. Tampa, FL.