Date of Graduation

12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Cathy Wissehr

Committee Member

Jennifer Beasley

Second Committee Member

Michael Wavering

Keywords

Applied sciences; Education; Curriculum and instuction; Elementary engineering; Elementary science; education; Professional development

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to describe the perceptions and approaches of 14 third-through-fifth grade Arkansan elementary teachers towards integrative engineering and engineering practices during 80 hours of integrated STEM professional development training in the summer and fall of 2014. This training was known as Project Flight. The purpose of the professional development was to learn integrated STEM content related to aviation and to write grade level curriculum units using Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design curriculum framework. The current study builds upon on the original research.

Using a mixed method exploratory, embedded QUAL[quan] case study design and a non-experimental convenience sample derived from original 20 participants of Project Flight, this research sought to answer the following question: Does professional development influence elementary teachers’ perceptions of the curriculum and instruction of integrated STEM engineering and engineering practices in a 3-to-5 grade level setting? A series of six qualitative and one quantitative sub-questions informed the research of the mixed method question. Hermeneutic content analysis was applied to archival and current qualitative data sets while descriptive statistics, independent t-tests, and repeated measures ANOVA tests were performed on the quantitative data. Broad themes in the teachers’ perceptions and understanding of the nature of integrated engineering and engineering practices emerged through triangulation.

After the professional development and the teaching of the integrated STEM units, all 14 teachers sustained higher perceptions of personal self-efficacy in their understanding of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The teachers gained understanding of engineering and engineering practices, excluding engineering habits of mind, throughout the professional development training and unit teaching. The research resulted in four major findings specific to elementary engineering, which included engineering as student Social agency and empowerment and the emergence of the engineering design loop as a new heuristic, and three more general non-engineering specific findings. All seven, however, have implications for future elementary engineering professional development as teachers in adopting states start to transition into using the NGSS standards.