The Impact of Pre-service Science Teachers' Implementation of Engineering Design Integrated Science Teaching on Student Learning Outcomes

Pottmeyer, Laura, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Mumba, Frackson, CU-Curr Instr & Sp Ed, University of Virginia

The purpose of this sequential explanatory mixed methods study was to examine the impact of engineering design integrated science (EDIS) instruction student learning outcomes in both science and engineering design. The implementation of the study and interpretation of the results were guided by the Opportunity to Learn (OTL) theoretical framework (Kurz, 2011), which says that student learning is impacted by the opportunities provided to students to learn the curriculum. The OTL framework has three main dimensions – content coverage, quality, and time.

Participants were nine secondary science pre-service teachers, and 460 high school students, who received EDIS instruction from the pre-service teachers. First, pre-service science teachers learned about engineering design and how to plan for and teach EDIS units in their science methods course. Then, they implemented their EDIS units in high school classrooms during their student teaching placements.

Prior to and following the EDIS units, high school students completed three assessments to measure their science knowledge, understanding of engineering design, and their perceptions of engineering design. Students responses were coded by two researchers, and the psychometrics of the instruments were analyzed using measure of reliability and validity, including factor analysis. Pre-service teachers’ unit plans were analyzed for the three components of OTL using pre-established rubrics. The pre-service teachers were then divided into two groups, high and low OTL environments, based on their OTL scores. A multiple regression analysis was then performed to determine if there were differences in student learning outcomes across the two learning environments.

In an effort to better understand possible explanations for student learning gains, an exemplar EDIS instruction was selected based on specific criteria. Next, a thick rich description of the instructional planning and implementation of the exemplar EDIS unit was provided through qualitative analysis of the unit plan and lesson observation field notes. Then, a qualitative analysis of student reflections and the pre-service teacher interview resulted in themes of possible explanations for the student learning gains found in the quantitative results. These themes were then supported by observation data.

Results indicate that across all classrooms, students demonstrated a statistically significant increase in their knowledge of science content, understanding of an engineering design process, and their perceptions of engineering design, following EDIS instruction. Furthermore, a high OTL environment was beneficial for students, who performed low on the science content and engineering design content tests before instruction. The exemplar EDIS unit provided a “high” OTL environment with a high degree of content coverage, quality of instruction, and time on unit. Students in the exemplar EDIS unit scored the lowest on the pre-assessments as compared to other classes, yet they had some of the highest post-assessment scores. Results from the qualitative analysis of the exemplar class suggest that the following four elements served as potential explanations for student learning outcomes: (1) the visualization provided by the models; (2) the hands-on building and creating of prototypes; (3) the opportunity for students to learn from mistakes through the redesign phase; and (4) the chance that students had to brainstorm and express their creativity.

Overall, the results show that engineering design integrated science instruction positively impacts student learning in science and engineering design and their perceptions of engineering design. Results also show that instructional planning and implementation factors help explain student learning outcomes in EDIS environment. Additionally, model visualization, prototype building, redesigning, and brainstorming influenced student learning. Although the results cannot be generalized, these findings have implications for researchers, science teacher educators, and teaching and learning of engineering design and science instruction in schools.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
engineering design, science education, student learning outcomes, pre-service science teachers
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