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Date: Sept. 8, 2009
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
New Report Calls for Improvements and Expansion of K-12 Engineering Education;
Teaching Engineering Design May Boost Learning of Science and Math
"The problem solving, systems thinking, and teamwork aspects of engineering can benefit all students, whether or not they ever pursue an engineering career," said Linda Katehi, chancellor of the
Engineering education at the K-12 level should emphasize engineering design and a creative problem-solving process, the committee said. It should include relevant concepts in mathematics, science, and technology, as well as support the development of skills many believe essential for the 21st century, including systems thinking, collaboration, and communication.
While science, technology, engineering, and mathematics instruction is collectively referred to as "STEM education," the report finds that the engineering component is often absent in policy discussions and in the classroom. In fact, engineering might be called the missing letter in STEM, the report says.
In preparing the report, the committee conducted an in-depth analysis of 15 K-12 engineering curricula; reviewed scientific literature related to learning engineering concepts and skills; evaluated evidence on the impact of K-12 engineering education initiatives; and collected preliminary information about pre-collegiate engineering education programs in other countries.
The committee found that engineering education opportunities in K-12 schools have expanded considerably in the past 15 years. Since the early 1990s, the report estimates, about 6 million children have been exposed to some formal engineering coursework. However, this number is still small compared with the overall number of students in K-12 schools (approximately 56 million in 2008). The committee noted that many challenges remain to expanding the availability and improving the quality of these programs, including the absence of content standards to guide development of instructional materials, limited pre-service education for engineering teachers, and structural and policy impediments to including this new subject in an already crowded school curriculum.
With these challenges in mind, the committee recommended that:
· the National Science Foundation or U.S. Department of Education fund research to determine how science inquiry and mathematical reasoning can be connected to engineering design in curricula and professional development;
· foundations and federal agencies with an interest in K-12 engineering education conduct long-term research to confirm and refine findings of studies of the impacts of engineering education;
· the American Society of Engineering Education begin a national dialogue on preparing K-12 engineering teachers, and on the pros and cons of establishing a formal credentialing process; and
· philanthropic foundations or federal agencies with an interest in STEM education and school reform identify models of implementation for K-12 engineering education that will work for different American school systems.
The committee also noted the importance of clarifying the meaning of "STEM literacy" and of developing curricula that would particularly appeal to groups typically underrepresented in engineering, such as girls, African Americans, and Hispanics.
The study was sponsored by Stephen D. Bechtel, Jr., chairman (ret.) and director, Bechtel Group Inc., with additional support from the National Science Foundation and Parametric Technology Inc. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering,
Copies of Engineering in K-12 Education: Understanding the Status and Improving the Prospects are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at http://www.nap.edu. In addition, a podcast of the public briefing held on Sept. 8 to release this report is available at http://national-academies.org/podcast.
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[ This news release and report are available at http://national-academies.org ]
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education
Board on Science Education
Committee on Understanding and Improving K-12 Engineering Education in the United States
Linda P.B. Katehi * (chair)
Office of the Chancellor and Provost
Specialist for Technology Education
M. David Burghardt
Professor and Chair of Engineering, and
Center for Technological Literacy
Alan G. Gomez
Great Schools Partnership in
Michael C. Lach
Officer, High School Teaching and Learning
Chicago Public Schools
Department of Teaching and Learning
NewSchools Venture Fund
Roland J. Otto
Education Outreach and the Global
Richard J. Schaar
Kern Family Foundation
Christian D. Schunn
Learning Research and
Jacquelyn F. Sullivan
Associate Dean for Student Cultivation
Vice President of Global Community Initiatives