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  • Tanner Huffman

Framework First. Let's Talk Engineering Standards.

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

In August, we announced our partnership with ASEE in developing the Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning. The response from the P-12 engineering education community has been incredible! We have received countless messages of goodwill, encouragement, and support. We have also received several questions about the work and its relation to educational standards or a standard setting effort in P-12 engineering education. These are important questions and require a marked and concise response. Put simply, the Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning is intended to inform (1) the revisions of current standards with concern to engineering AND (2) the development of new, stand-alone standards of P-12 Engineering Education if the community deems such action is appropriate.


One may beg the question, why not just simply develop P-12 engineering standards from the onset?


A framework lays the conceptual foundation for standards to be written. As a still emerging trend in P-12 schools, we have much to learn about how students interact with engineering learning. That being said, engineering is being taught in P-12 schools. With the implementation efforts of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), science teachers throughout the country are teaching engineering design as a "complement to" and "a vehicle for" science learning. In STEM education programs, engineering is often used as a context for STEM learning in the form of a design challenge or engineering problem. National curriculum programs such as Engineering is Elementary, Project Lead The Way, Engineer Your World, and Engineering byDesign are training hundreds of teachers and teaching thousands of students about engineering each year. The framework is a unifying effort that aims to add coherence and structure to those truly interested in authentic engineering learning. An excerpt from the upcoming Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning may best describe this effort:


"The broad set of expectations for students articulated in the framework is intended to guide the development of new standards that in turn guide revisions to engineering-related curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional development for educators. A coherent and consistent approach throughout grades P-12 is key to realizing the vision for engineering education embodied in this framework: that students, over multiple years of school, orient their ways of thinking through developing engineering habits of mind, cultivate skills by actively engaging in engineering practices, and inform these practices through the appropriate application of the engineering concepts that are scientific, mathematical, and technical in nature; allowing for a truly integrated mindset for learning and problem-solving. Therefore, this framework represents the first step in a process that should inform state-level decisions and provide a research-grounded basis for improving engineering teaching and learning across the country."


The Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning identifies the "Know", "Do" and "Act" for all students to become engineering literate. Standards would take the next step and identify how the "Know", "Do", and "Act" should be articulated across grade levels to achieve the goal of engineering literacy for all students. As educational researchers, we do not engage in guesswork. There is still much to be learned about how to best carryout the vision that will be present in the Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning. With so many efforts (e.g. NGSS, STEM, National Curriculum Programs) already being actualized, some of the answers may already be evident. For example, considerable research has been conducted by the Boston Museum of Science on their elementary curriculum program Engineering is Elementary to identify "Engineering Learning Trajectories". Conventional wisdom would suggest that the evidence generated through these and similar efforts would be paramount in influencing the development of standards for P-12 Engineering Education.


The Framework for P-12 Engineering Learning will provide evidence-based foundation by identifying what all P-12 students should know to be engineering literate. The framework is intended to set the stage for future standards work in engineering education.


-Tanner

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