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Study points to uncertainty of K-12 engineering standards

As educators debate the need for engineering education, a new report says designing national standards might be tough

Study points to uncertainty of K-12 engineering standards
Should engineering standards be developed for K-12?

Should engineering standards be developed for K-12?

With efforts to ensure U.S. competitiveness in a global economy revolving around stronger STEM education, some policy makers are looking at whether it makes sense to include engineering standards for K-12 education. But the ability to establish a national set of standards for K-12 engineering education might still be out of reach, according to a new study from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS).

The study, “Standards for K-12 Engineering Education?” claims that “although the main ideas in K-12 engineering education are largely agreed upon, data based on rigorous research on engineering learning at the K-12 level are still not sufficient to develop learning progressions that could be reflected as standards.”

Educators are split on whether establishing K-12 engineering standards is a feasible option or not.

“We have had academic K-12 engineering standards in Massachusetts since 2001; the next generation of national science standards will likely include engineering standards as well,” said Jake Foster, director of science and technology/engineering with the Massachusetts Department of Education.

Elizabeth Parry, coordinator for the North Carolina State University College of Engineering, disagrees.

“Of course it is possible [to create engineering standards], but in my opinion it doesn’t make sense. … [Engineering] skills cut across all core subjects in K-12, and separate standards would not sufficiently measure achievement,” said Parry.

Elizabeth McGrath, executive director of the Center for Innovation in Engineering and Science Education (CIESE), said that while developing national standards is not a simple process, it can be accomplished.

“One approach is to encourage the infusion of engineering [education] into core courses at the K-12 level, like science and math, but also language arts, art, and other subjects, to provide students with exposure to engineering design, the iterative design process, [and] the practical application of science and mathematics principles to real-world challenges in hands-on/minds-on learning. This approach has many practical benefits and has shown in some of our own research to increase student learning in core subjects like science,” McGrath said.

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Comments:

  1. bwb1952

    October 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    This whole article about engineering standards never really says what engineering is. Why isn’t the writer more specific. You say that it’s not white men in coats with pocket protectors working with dirty machines. Instead of the it’s “students ability to make a real difference in the world.”
    How exactly is that? Does working with machines not make a difference? How would you repaint that image precisely?

  2. bwb1952

    October 26, 2010 at 11:52 am

    This whole article about engineering standards never really says what engineering is. Why isn’t the writer more specific. You say that it’s not white men in coats with pocket protectors working with dirty machines. Instead of the it’s “students ability to make a real difference in the world.”
    How exactly is that? Does working with machines not make a difference? How would you repaint that image precisely?

  3. Karen

    October 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    While I certainly have no problem with students learning more about science and math, I don’t understand why engineering is being pushed in this country. My husband is an electrical engineer who has been out of work for 2 years! Over the course of the past 5 years, many of the engineering jobs in this country have either been outsourced to foreign countries or given to foreign workers who have been insourced on H1b visas to replace American workers. The politics is simply that these people will work for less than Americans so employers WANT to bring them in. I am really tired of hearing that schools need to produce more math and science majors – why? So they can grow up to be unemployed like my husband or be forced to work for low salaries? Seems like educators aren’t being told the real truth. Even 60 minutes featured a story just this past week on how highly educated, high tech workers are unemployed in this country in Silicon Valley. Why bother to push engineering?

  4. Karen

    October 26, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    While I certainly have no problem with students learning more about science and math, I don’t understand why engineering is being pushed in this country. My husband is an electrical engineer who has been out of work for 2 years! Over the course of the past 5 years, many of the engineering jobs in this country have either been outsourced to foreign countries or given to foreign workers who have been insourced on H1b visas to replace American workers. The politics is simply that these people will work for less than Americans so employers WANT to bring them in. I am really tired of hearing that schools need to produce more math and science majors – why? So they can grow up to be unemployed like my husband or be forced to work for low salaries? Seems like educators aren’t being told the real truth. Even 60 minutes featured a story just this past week on how highly educated, high tech workers are unemployed in this country in Silicon Valley. Why bother to push engineering?

  5. BobPieri

    October 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    As an engineering educator for 20 years and a degreed engineer for 40 years, I strongly believe that engineering should be part of that thing call a “Liberal Education” because at its heart engineering is about solving societal problems by applying scientific & technological principals in an ethical, economical, sustainable, respectful and professional manner. And although there is no profession that guarantees lifetime paid employment, except for perhaps ‘King”, ‘Queen’, ‘Dictator’, etc., engineering can come rather close if one stays atop innovation, is flexible and sometimes willing to move. Because engineering can be so many different things to different people, it is hard to describe beyond ‘problem solving using science & technology’. Sometimes the science is applied physics (Thin films, surface treatments, electronics) and sometimes it is predictive modeling (computer aided graphics, math models & simulations, wind tunnels, crash testing). The technology can be computers (FEM, CFD, CADD & a bunch of other letters) or the technology is sensing and recording (RFD’s, strain gauges, brittle coatings, remote sensing, IR, RF UHF, UV, telemetry) or technology that helps us work (steam, water or wind turbines. solar panels, nuclear power, coffee makers, trucks). And the thing that is often missed, even by practitioners, is communication of the outcomes (public speaking, written opinions, professional testimony, pod casts, math expressions, worker evaluations, incident reports, demonstrative models). And the problems range from the everyday items (get food, provide safe environments and water) to things literally out of this world (airplane travel, communication satellites and space exploration) the good things (medical sensors, pacemakers & replacement body parts, Ultrasound pictures, firefighting equipment) and the not so good things (machines of war), all things that humans want to do or feel the need to do This is what engineering can bring to society’s table (not to mention the table itself) and are reasons to include it in education activities.

  6. BobPieri

    October 27, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    As an engineering educator for 20 years and a degreed engineer for 40 years, I strongly believe that engineering should be part of that thing call a “Liberal Education” because at its heart engineering is about solving societal problems by applying scientific & technological principals in an ethical, economical, sustainable, respectful and professional manner. And although there is no profession that guarantees lifetime paid employment, except for perhaps ‘King”, ‘Queen’, ‘Dictator’, etc., engineering can come rather close if one stays atop innovation, is flexible and sometimes willing to move. Because engineering can be so many different things to different people, it is hard to describe beyond ‘problem solving using science & technology’. Sometimes the science is applied physics (Thin films, surface treatments, electronics) and sometimes it is predictive modeling (computer aided graphics, math models & simulations, wind tunnels, crash testing). The technology can be computers (FEM, CFD, CADD & a bunch of other letters) or the technology is sensing and recording (RFD’s, strain gauges, brittle coatings, remote sensing, IR, RF UHF, UV, telemetry) or technology that helps us work (steam, water or wind turbines. solar panels, nuclear power, coffee makers, trucks). And the thing that is often missed, even by practitioners, is communication of the outcomes (public speaking, written opinions, professional testimony, pod casts, math expressions, worker evaluations, incident reports, demonstrative models). And the problems range from the everyday items (get food, provide safe environments and water) to things literally out of this world (airplane travel, communication satellites and space exploration) the good things (medical sensors, pacemakers & replacement body parts, Ultrasound pictures, firefighting equipment) and the not so good things (machines of war), all things that humans want to do or feel the need to do This is what engineering can bring to society’s table (not to mention the table itself) and are reasons to include it in education activities.

  7. patty o novak

    November 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Engineering is a field of study that utilizes reading, writing, math, science, technology, history and social studies. Do we need to teach anything but engineering in our schools?

    Added bonus – the engineering process teaches valuable problem solving skills children can use no matter what path life takes them on.

  8. patty o novak

    November 19, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    Engineering is a field of study that utilizes reading, writing, math, science, technology, history and social studies. Do we need to teach anything but engineering in our schools?

    Added bonus – the engineering process teaches valuable problem solving skills children can use no matter what path life takes them on.