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Promising Research Involves Engineering is Elementary

July 14, 2012

Engaging elementary students in problems in science and engineering, higher-order thinking, and 21st century skills results in increased student learning in science and increased interest in science and engineering careers. This finding is based on research conducted by Stevens Institute of Technology through their 2007-2009 Math-Science Partnership (MSP) program, Partnership to Improve Student Achievement through Real World Learning in Engineering, Science, Mathematics, and Technology, or PISA project.

The PISA program presented a novel approach to MSP goals by integrating the use of exemplary, research-based elementary engineering curricula including seven Engineering is Elementary® units developed by the National Center for Technological Literacy® at the Museum of Science, Boston and problem-based activities to strengthen teachers' science learning. Also Stevens found that the number of engineering lessons implemented by teachers was highly correlated to students' post-test scores in science, suggesting that engineering design can influence students' learning in science.

Specific PISA findings included:

--participating teachers showed science and engineering gains almost 3 times greater than teachers in the comparison group;

--students of teachers in the treatment group had gains in science and engineering over 2.5 times greater than students in the comparison group;

--students of teachers in the treatment group had achievement gains in science almost 2 times greater than those in the comparison group;

--teachers improved their notions of scientific inquiry.

PISA was sponsored by a three-year grant from the New Jersey Department of Education as part of the U.S. Department of Education's MSP program and was recognized as one of 16 MSP programs with rigorous evaluation designs. Some 50 elementary teachers from six school districts and four non-public schools in northern New Jersey were involved in intensive professional development in life and environmental sciences, earth and space sciences, and physical science.

Partners worked to improve student achievement in science, mathematics and technology through: 1) bolstering teachers' knowledge in those areas; 2) promoting model-based inquiry in science learning; 3) integrating the engineering design process to solve real-world problems; and 4) providing learning opportunities through professional development, classroom mentoring, and support.

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The Museum of Science, Boston

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