Assessing High School Science Teachers’ Nature of Engineering (NOE) Perceptions with an Open-ended NOE Instrument (Fundamental)

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date


Publication Title

2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition



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The recent adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by some states provides an opportunity to integrate engineering education in the K-12 science curricula. While engineering education research in K-12 is emerging, there is an expanding literature that focuses on the epistemology, philosophy and history of engineering education, specifically the Nature of Engineering (NOE). Although NOE aspects are not explicitly stated in NGSS, they are implicitly woven into the standards, and can be extracted through analysis of the document. NOE aspects, although reported in less than a dozen papers, show consistency among researchers, and a few examples include engineering as a distinct body of knowledge, the use of creativity in engineering, and social- and cultural-embeddedness. Teachers and students have a naive understanding of NOE, which can be enhanced through exposure to engineering instruction and the engineering design process. We believe that an introduction to NOE will improve K-12 engineering education. Specifically, understanding NOE allows learners to make sense of engineering and technology in daily life, helps learners to make informed decisions, causes learners to appreciate the contribution of engineering in our culture, assists learners in recognizing the ethical and moral values that engineers need to demonstrate, and aids in the teaching and learning of engineering instruction. However, NOE teaching is not an easy task, and a lack of NOE understanding also raises many issues and obstacles for science teachers to incorporate NOE in science instruction. Science teachers need training to fulfill the requirements described in the NGSS and to inform teachers about NOE aspects. To meet this goal, we provided a professional development that focuses on NOE and the engineering design process during summer 2017 in a southwestern research institute. Using the cognitive apprenticeship model, secondary science teachers were exposed to an engineering design challenge, either by building solar thermal water heaters or water treatment systems. The teachers used the NGSS engineering design process and NOE aspects were explicitly taught at the beginning of the professional development. Four secondary science teachers’ NOE understanding was assessed by using an open-ended NOE questionnaire coupled with semi-structured interviews before and after the engineering design intervention. The following research question guided our case study research: To what extent did secondary science teachers NOE views change after exposure to an engineering design challenge? Our results show that at the end of the professional development teachers either kept well-articulated understanding of NOE aspects or improved them.


Cognitive apprenticeship; Engineering design challenge; Engineering design process; Nature of engineering; NGSS; NOE; Professional development; Secondary science teachers


Science and Mathematics Education



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